We encounter somewhere along the way this rite of passage, this right-sizing of expectation about life. You have probably discovered like I have – that marriages and close relationships require a world of give and take, that your children have challenges even the best mother can’t remedy. Perhaps you have been blindsided by a couple of stinging losses you didn’t see coming- or felt like a character in a play who suddenly finds herself saying someone else’s lines, as though you were reading from the wrong script and this experience could not be a part of your life. But it is. Hardly any of us travel very far without encountering at least one huge disappointment. One blot of black paint on an otherwise charming canvas. One obstacle in our path that simply refuses to yield. No one comes through unscathed. Life is uncertain. Coming to grips with that uncertainty, in the deep places of your heart, is like breaking through a sound barrier- or waking up after a long, long nap. Reflecting on my current “blot of black paint” on my canvas which has been a three year obstacle in my path, has me searching the deep places of my heart.
I was asked the question last week, “How are you handling your anger?” I was dumbfounded. Could not utter a word in response for several deafening moments. I had never even voiced that I was angry. Was I angry? It struck me so vividly, I began to seek the Lord and ask Him to search my heart for any seeds of anger and bitterness. He spoke to me. “You are angry.” I pondered this for a few minutes. Hmm, I said to myself, maybe I am angry- rather surprised to be given a label for this shutdown place in which I was living. Immediately, His response came as surely as if the words were spoken. “Yes, you are angry…..and if you’ll let me walk with you through that, I’ll bring you out the other side. I sat there, in my car gazing up at the clear big beautiful sky through my window. The tears trickling down my face. I would never have believed that Jesus would meet me in such a way – or at such a messy, confused time in my life. I was amazed at His kindness. Yet God came after me in this dark place. He offered to bring me out the other side of whatever this was, and I knew I could not get there on my own. Those small moments with Jesus became a huge hinge in my life.
Anger is often the face of loss and disappointment, like a doorway you have to go through to get to the real stuff. It’s a hard scab on some wound in your heart that must be melted so the tender, vulnerable parts of you can know His touch. Naming my anger was a path into the real grief of some real losses. What a cleansing thing grief can be. You cry your tears and mourn what would have been…. and slowly awaken to a new sense of hope for what might come in the place of what you lost.
I doubt that, apart from God, much true transformation ever happens in the way it really could. For it is God who binds up the broken-hearted. He is the One who gives beauty for ashes, the Grace to forgive and to be forgiven (Isaiah 61:1-3). We only have to bring Him the pieces. This has led me to God’s mercy. He guided me to visit the Book of Esther, only not to focus on the character of Esther but of Xerxes the Great. Also known as Ahasuerus, which at this time in history he was probably the most powerful man alive. A powerful king, but in his heart he harbored bitterness for past atrocities committed against his people and his father. Because Ahasuerus was poisoned by bitterness, he developed a strong desire for revenge.
So, I reflected on my situation. It’s a natural human response to feel revengeful toward those who we think have wronged us. It takes supernatural grace to respond with mercy. Taking revenge into our own hands may result in injustice or overreaction. Give it to God. “O Lord of heavens armies, You make righteous judgments, and You examine the deepest thoughts and secrets. Let me see Your vengeance against them, for I have committed my cause to You”(Jeremiah 11:20 NLT). Those who are merciful respond not only with tender hearts but also with outward actions. Grief (which is often what’s behind anger) washes your heart of ego and striving and leaves as a parting gift a new measure of humility.
I love the way Anne Sexton writes about this in her poem, “Courage.”
“Later, If you endured a great despair, then you did it alone, getting a transfusion from the fire, picking the scabs off your heart, then wringing it out like a sock. Next, my kinsman, you powdered your sorrow you gave it a back rub and then you covered it with a blanket and after it had slept a while it woke to the wings of roses and was transformed.”
A wonderful picture of the way loss and disappointment can birth something new in our lives we would not have known otherwise. His mercy. It is indeed new every morning.
inspired gal, tmc