… Society informs us that race, politics, and religion do not have a place at the dinner table. Even casual mentions seem to make people’s hair stand on end. This is privilege disguised as politeness; apathy cloaked in hospitality.
When anger follows you
I know as a writer it is smart write “we” when I really mean “you”. But I am saying “we” in this post with complete honesty.
It is exceptionally easy to find something to be angry about. So easy in fact, we can easily avoid finding out why we are actually angry by just hopping on social media or turning on the news. We like to see ourselves as either the heroes or the victims and turn the people who make us uncomfortable into either wimpy idiots or aggressors.
There are things worth getting angry over. But at some point, it is important to zoom out and ask ourselves this question: How many seasons of my life can be defined by anger (angry at them for ___, angry at him for ___, angry at myself for ___, angry at her for ___, angry that everyone has disappointed me and will continue to)?
Follow up question: Have you considered that maybe part of the problem lies within you? Are we the common denominator?
Through many different seasons, I found myself in the middle of tense relationships. If you know me, you know that I love studying mediation. It’s my favorite topic. What keeps mediation from working? A refusal to self-reflect. If one party will not be open to the idea that they at least contributed to the conflict, there is no going anywhere. This refusal can come either by choosing to only acknowledge oneself’s best qualities or, through lying. This anchor of blaming others is a tricky one to unearth, because it seems SO MUCH EASIER to insist that you need an apology first.
We all need an apology, am I right?
We have all been wronged in some way by this broken world. We are just a bunch of people walking around with our hurt-turned-anger waiting on someone to apologize before we are willing to self-reflect.
You know what God says to us? “You’re Forgiven.”
“I forgive you.”
The other night, I snapped at Bryan over a we-were-both-too-tired-to-get-up-and-help-the-baby moment. When I got back in bed I grunted, “I am sorry I snapped at you.” He said, “I forgive you.”
That wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I was head-to-pillow awake, for what felt like hours, thinking about all the other things “I was sorry” for. “Sorry I got up and took care of the teething baby” etc, etc, etc.
In the morning I apologized again. This time I meant it. The truth is, I just wanted to be mad, but it isn’t healthy to be mad at a baby for having needs. I wanted my frustration to be validated by someone saying, “I am sorry.” But more than that, I want to be like Jesus. I want to be full of compassion, pouring myself out like a drink offering for the people I love; and when I do really get hurt by someone, I want them to be forgiven.
It’s the hot button topic. We are a divided nation. What’s worse? We are a divided church: made to be one body torn apart by our sin. Much like division that can happen between two people, it is really hard to talk “contributions” when we find ourselves hurt and angry. I feel like this. I hear myself calling those on the other side names in my head, questioning their motives, certain that I have no fault.
Blame can feel good, but it actually doesn’t work as well as we hope. Blame doesn’t move you toward future success, it only ascribes labels to the past. We want the future, don’t we? We want something beautiful. The question is, do we want it with “them”? Do we want to be unified?
Much like any close relationship, if your motive in an argument is to prove you’re right, then you are fighting the wrong battle. Unity takes desire, effort, and a willingness to listen. Question: Do you have any of those to spare for the other side?
You are forgiven. You have contributed to the divide in some way, but you are forgiven.
See, the other night, I didn’t want to hear that I was forgiven because I wanted to blame. And when I considered the evidence, I was NOT to blame. But, that conversation wasn’t about blame (no sense in blaming a baby), and I still needed forgiveness for my contribution. As I steamed while he snored I *eventually* brought my frustration to God. Slowly, my heart softened as His Spirit revealed to me that I should not serve my child as a “gift” to my husband. Bryan doesn’t “owe” me. I serve my children because God himself, entrusted them to me.
“... all things as unto the Lord…”
When I came to a place of humility before God, he exposed to me the reason why my contribution to the problem was not as small or meaningless as I wanted to believe. Revealing a root of damaging motives, he provided a correction that extinguished the flicker of future conflict. Then, he reminded me in a deeper way of the same thing Bryan said. “I forgive you.” And it was during that time, exposed by the Light, that I received the gift of peace, refinement, and closeness with God himself.
Do I think there is a right and a wrong? Yes. Will I continue to try to speak up for justice and mercy in the best way I know how? Yes. But I commit to remembering that I am forgiven. Unity isn’t going to start with an apology. Unity will burgeon when we remember we are first and foremost forgiven.
Be willing to put aside claiming victory over fellow believers and, with a repentant heart, genuinely desire unity because God desires unity. Inaction is sinful when it is a response to a command from God.