The first time I told someone I hated them, I was in 1st grade. It was my teacher. That same year, I peed on her brand new carpet. I can't be certain, but I'm pretty sure she shared the same seething emotion towards me. This was just the first sign.
You see, ever since I can remember, I've held tight to one particular sin.
I've nurtured it. I've celebrated it. I've laughed about it, made excuses for it, clung to it. I've welcomed it to my life like a trusty companion. It was my strength. It was my god.
Anger will do that to you.
When my parents divorced, I survived in anger.
When my friends were murdered, I clung to anger.
When my dad got sick, I thrived in anger.
When my mentors died, I cultivated anger.
When life after college wasn't all that I thought it would be, I wallowed in anger.
Is it a sin to feel angry? No. Not anymore than it is to feel sad or happy or any other emotion. You will get angry in life. That’s inevitable.
Hear me now, it’s not that I felt an emotion, it’s that I let that emotion become me. It breathed death into me, every fiber of my being poisoned by its control.
If you’re reading this article and don’t know me, by this point you probably think I’m like a raving lunatic who yells at strangers in the grocery store. Let me assure you that if you saw me on the street (or in the grocery store), I’d look like any other mild mannered, slightly eccentric 20-something. I rarely raise my voice in anger. I giggle almost constantly especially when I’m in a tense situation. The last thing I punched was my pillow… and that was to make it fluffier.
I am not the poster child of anger.
I am not the Hulk. I am not Mike Tyson.
I was Naomi and now I am Mara.
I have suffered and now I am bitter.
In the midst of my bitterness, in my lowest of lows, the unthinkable happened. My father died.
Just like that. In the blink of an eye, in the smallest of breaths, my father left me here. Alone and scared. Bitter and angry.
Just like that.
Days went by. He sent me laughter.
Months went by. He solidified my community.
A year went by. He gave me wisdom.
And just like that, with the biggest tragedy of my life, my Heavenly Father, did the unimaginable. He began softening my heart. Just like Naomi, I have had blessings in front of my face all these years. And just like Naomi, I was blind to them. I cloaked myself in bitterness and it became my identity. It became my name.
He has taken my bitterness. He has nailed it to the cross. He has redeemed my life for His glory.
I hated Him and He loved me. I yelled at Him and He whispered my name. I have forsaken Him and He has welcomed me back with open arms.
I write this confession, this warning, knowing full well that some of you are struggling with bitterness and anger. You are living in bondage of sin because you don’t know how else to live. Hear me now brothers and sisters, you are not alone. Life is hard, it is cruel, it is unfair but our God is good. Perhaps you’ve lost friends. Perhaps you’ve been through divorce. Perhaps you’ve been assaulted. Whatever those burdens might be, and they may be many, we have a God big enough for all of them.
I beg you brothers and sisters, don’t burden yourself again by the yoke of slavery. Don’t waste your years fighting a battle that has already been won.
Hear me when I say:
Your name is not bitter.
Your name is redeemed.
Your name is rescued.
Your name is freedom.
You are a child of the One, True King. Your victory is won.