forgiveness

Anger, Division, and Forgiveness

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?

 

Self Reflection

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.

 

Division

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?

 

Good News

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.

 

In Conclusion

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.

 

Thursday: Study Peace

‘And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; 
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, 
to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God, 
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven 
to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.’
— ‭‭Luke‬ ‭1:76-79‬ 

 

There is a path of peace in this valley, and its trail name is forgiveness. 

John the Baptist prepared the way for the Lord by preaching, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is near!” Shouting into the darkness he proclaimed the coming of the Light. I imagine a wandering prophet in my own soul, calling into the darkness, “Repent of your selfishness! Repent of your worry! Repent of your pride! For the Kingdom of Light is advancing to these places. You will be exposed, so come out of hiding!” 

That first conviction is always hard. When the thought hits you in the midst of a Netflix binge, “I should turn this off and stop avoiding God about how short-tempered I was today.”

Those “John the Baptist” moments when you know the light is coming to expose the ugly sins in its path, repentance to which may cause dramatic changes to your comfort, are unnerving. But the path of peace is found when we heed those calls, seek God’s forgiveness, and in turn, are able to extend forgiveness to others. 

Ask yourself: 

Am I listening for the coming Kingdom Advancement in my own life? 

When I pray for peace in the world, have I sought God on how I need to repent in order to be a peacemaker?
 

Monday: We Need Peace

Peace seems an unlikely treasure in this age of darkness. We say our prayers and cross our fingers in hopes that life will get less chaotic and Light will reign in our lives in the midst of such brokenness. The war between light and dark wages both in our world and in our hearts. 

Luke 7:36-50 tells an impossibly beautiful story about Jesus, some pharisees, and a sinful woman. In this story we find Jesus, the God Incarnate remembered at Christmas, reclined at a table with a group of Pharisees. We learn in these verses that the Pharisees disrespected Jesus openly by not washing his feet nor giving him the customary welcoming kiss. They even went so far as openly mocking him. 

As Jesus is reclining in the midst of such hostility, a woman enters the scene. This woman, shackled by her reputation and sins, came in search of her savior. Seeing him, she stood behind him weeping and washing his feet with her tears and her hair. She kissed them pouring expensive perfume over them.  This woman, steeped in dark sorrow and shame, bares her soul, her income, her reputation at the unclean feet of Jesus. 

Unlike the Pharisees, this woman understood who she was. She recognized the gap between her and God. She understood her depravity. The learned men of the age mocked her calling her “sinner” and proclaiming her brokenness, never once contemplating their lack of faith, their brokenness from The Divine. They ridiculed Jesus for claiming to be a prophet, yet allowing her touch. How could he not see who she truly was?

How did Jesus respond?   

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.’

Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
— Luke 7: 44-48; 50

Your sins are forgiven. 
Your faith has saved you. 
Go. 
In. 
Peace. 

As we look toward Christmas and our Jehovah-Shalom (The Lord is Peace) being born in Bethlehem, we must also look to his life. As we contemplate the Light of the season, we must look to the stories of his ministry. Too many times we read scripture and place ourselves in the roll of the faithful servant or the repentant sinner who understood their brokenness. 

But if we were to truly look at our lives, inspecting our Christmas season, could we really say that were true? Are we not Pharisees openly mocking the Light in our own ways? Where is our repentance in this season?

Instead of hating the people you think are war-makers, hate the appetites and disorder in your own soul, which are the causes of war. If you love peace, then hate injustice, hate tyranny, hate greed - but hate these things in yourself, not in another.
— Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation 

 

Let us go forth, in the recognition of our brokenness, and let us live this season with repentant hearts. Let us fill our lives with the Light, recognizing who this baby we are celebrating truly is. Let us fill our hearts with the acceptance of who we are, breaking our perfume jars and kissing the feet of Jesus.  May we become undignified in our response to our Savior. 

Go in peace, my brothers and sisters. Your sins are forgiven. 
 

A Little Something About My Anger

I want to say something: I’ve tried to be forgiving. And yet. There were times in my life, whole years, when anger got the better of me. Ugliness turned me inside out. There was a certain satisfaction in bitterness. I courted it. It was standing outside, and I invited it in.
— Nicole Krauss

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.

‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.
— Ephesians 4:26-27

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.

But she said, “Don’t call me Naomi; call me Bitter. The Strong One has dealt me a bitter blow. I left here full of life, and God has brought me back with nothing but the clothes on my back. Why would you call me Naomi? God certainly doesn’t. The Strong One ruined me.”
— Ruth 1:20-21

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.

 

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.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
— Galatians 5:1

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.