Sunday, March 13, 2011

Un-Sticking My Anger (Or, Why I Need a God who gets Pissed Off)

I've been thinking a lot lately about this post that I wrote back in November, about being told I needed to learn to trust my feelings. Actually, it wasn't so much the post I've been thinking about as the conversation and its pretty profound and lasting impact on me.

It's Lent now, of course. So I suppose its about time for a blogpost where I reach in my guts and fish around for that thing that's irritating me. This is what I do. Ok, here we go.

Lately, when I've been in silence doing my daily chores and such, I have found myself noticing something unusual for me. Memories of things past, some long past, have come bubbling up to the surface. They all seem to have a theme, and I know I need to pay attention. The memories are of people who have either treated me badly, or who have treated someone close to me badly. More specifically, the memories are of my responses to these experiences. The one memorable case of someone close to me being treated badly made me quite angry at the time, and it is still able to elicit that feeling of anger. But the thing about all of the other cases, in which the bad treatment was against me personally, is that I have been unable, or somehow unwilling, to feel anger about them.

There's something wrong with that, I know.

Now, I don't think that there is great virtue, either, in storming around, demanding justice for oneself, as if I were the sinless center of the universe, owed all recompense. But my gut tells me that unless one is able to experience anger, one is never really "fired up" to assertively move in a direction that is positive and aimed at accomplishing the attainment of some good that should indeed be within one's power to do.

I can't even seem to bring myself to write an example. What bothers me the most is that the emotion I associate with these occasions of being treated badly -- mostly by various men and their objectification of me -- is a feeling at the time of a sort of relief. Being treated like crap was a high price to pay, but at least I wasn't being ignored. I guess it reminds me of the line from The Boxer: "I do declare, there were times when I was so lonesome/ I took some comfort there."

Wow. Now I am remembering how a certain Scripture passage struck me as I read it the other day. It was Psalm 78, recounting the flight from Egypt. Verses like these reverberated in my spirit:

He unleashed against them his fiery breath, roar, fury, and distress, storming messengers of death. He cleared a path for his anger; he did not spare them from death; he delivered their beasts to the plague. (Ps. 78:49-50)
And then this, speaking of Israel:  "He led them on secure and unafraid" (Ps. 78:53). That's pretty amazing. It speaks of God unleashing His fury, and yet Israel followed "secure and unafraid." Obviously, if the Israelites were unafraid of God, they knew something of their position in relationship to Him.

And I see now exactly what my soul's need has been. In none of these instances did I feel I had any recourse to tell anyone in my life these people treated me like shit. That man treated me like a thing, took advantage of me, etc. with any expectation that this would rouse anyone to anger on my behalf. And it is a very scary feeling to have no one who could be provoked to anger on one's behalf.

But I see now that I do.

It is not that I want God to strike down people who have hurt me, no more than I want Him to strike me down for the way I've hurt others. But I see how deeply I need a God who gets pissed off on my behalf.

Pardon my French.

You have no idea how much I needed what I just wrote!

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