Sunday, March 1, 2009

Accepting Anger

I was angry. Friday night I finally admitted it. I don’t like to be angry. It takes me a long time to realize when I am angry, and then even longer to admit it. But Friday night I was. The soul numbing weeks of distance from God were taking their toll. My head was aching from the effort to keep it all inside. So I took a walk in the dark and voiced all the thoughts I was loath to think. I told Him how much it hurt to have Barbara gone, how much it hurt to be given an apartment that was a home and a friend who was a sister and then to watch it disappear. I told Him how much I wanted community, questioned Him on why I wanted it so badly. And I told Him how much it hurt that I felt I was still crying the same tears that I cried two and a half years ago on the Sharp-Davis roof. I said it all and then I cried, not great wrenching sobs but simple gentle tears. It was beautiful relief. I had wanted to cry for two weeks. I knew there was something stuffed down inside of my soul, but I couldn’t get it to come out. As the tears fell from my cheeks a weight fell from my soul. There was freedom in honesty.

As I cried I discovered something. I wasn’t angry with God. I was angry with myself for being angry. As a result I had cut myself off from His love. I thought I had been doubting his love, but I hadn’t. I knew He was loving me all along, but I didn’t want Him to. I was suffering under a load of guilt that I wanted God to agree with. I was ashamed of my anger, of my ingratitude, of the way I was clinging to my rights when I knew I didn’t have any. Who was I to be upset with what God allowed? I only lost a roommate (hopefully only temporarily); other people lose their families, their freedom, their means of survival. What was my complaint? It was nothing, yet I was clinging to it like it was something. I was angry at myself for not being able to move beyond this point. I perceived my anger to be sin. But God didn’t. I think He wanted me to get angry. He was waiting for it. He was waiting for my pride to break, for me to realize that I am not above getting angry. My guilt wasn’t holiness, it was faulty righteousness sculpted by my own hands.

It astounds me how well pride can hide itself within my soul, masquerading as righteousness and submission. I didn’t have a clue. I was deceived into believing that my response was what God wanted. I meant well. That first night I didn’t want to be angry. I wanted to accept whatever God was doing and move on. But somewhere that acceptance turned into an act. I kept stuffing my true feelings to feign submission. But God wanted my honesty, not my charade.

I’m still mulling over the issue of anger. My heart has always assumed that anger was wrong. But that’s not true. Ephesians tells me to be angry. It is not the anger that is wrong, it’s the actions that follow the anger that can be so dangerous. But so is denying its existence. Putting the verse in context brought something to light:

“Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth to each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.” – Ephesians 4:25-27

In these verses God asks for honesty. And if I doubted, He even specifies that honesty includes anger. He wanted me to be angry, to admit my pain and carry it to Him so He can take it from me. In my pride, I was so determined to not let the sun go down upon my anger that I hid it. I deceived myself and the sun went down on my anger while it was buried within my heart. It took weeks to pry it out and the devil got his opportunity in the interim.

I was so concerned with not claiming my right to be angry. I didn’t think I should have a right. But maybe it’s not about rights. Maybe it’s about God wanting to acknowledge the pain of my heart, about Him wanting to love me in my pain. He can’t love me in that place of pain if I won’t acknowledge its existence. Maybe it’s not about me having rights. Maybe it’s about God dying for the right to love me. Who am I to stand in the way?


JONATHAN said...

Is repentance from a hardened, angry heart a complete act of the will or must the God of Israel bring this gift and the refreshing grace that follows?

Danielle said...

It's a mixture of both. But there comes a point when we can't sit around and wait for the feeling we want. We have to step out and make a choice to repent regardless of how we feel and the refreshing grace of God will follow our obedience.