Who told anger
“You are not welcome here”
And banished her
to lonely places
And left him
to sit by the road?
It was never the One
who stands at the door and knocks
Or in lonely places prays
Or who blinds some and gives sight to others
that their roads may lead
By "it" I'm referring to anger.
It's important. Even necessary.
Our anger need not be squelched or swallowed, repressed or suppressed...but it need not lead either (or down a destructive path we'll go, harming ourselves and others!). This is what the Psalmist and Paul admonish in Psalm 4:4 and Ephesians 4:26, when they say "Be angry but do not sin."
In the book, Healing Spiritual Abuse and Religious Addiction, I ran across this quote by William Sloane Coffin, Jr. and it stopped me in my tracks:
Jesus was angry over 50% of the time, and it's very dangerous theology to try to improve on Jesus. The anger needs to be focused, but anger is what maintains your sanity. Anger keeps you from tolerating the intolerable.
Isn't that good news? Anger itself isn't a sin. In fact, it can even be Christ-like. So let's not set our anger aside too quickly (lest resentment builds and the volcano explodes). If we're willing to listen, anger has gifts it's willing to give. Two I've experienced and seen offered to those I work with in spiritual direction are energy and creativity.
A youth pastor sat slumped in his chair as he told me he had been lethargic and uninspired all week even though his ministry and students had experienced a traumatic betrayal by a respected church leader the week before. I thought his lethargy may be a protective measure shielding him from the force of his anger (which to him didn't feel too Christ-like, but Christ's life shows otherwise). So I asked him how he felt about the man and what he had done to the students in his community and he nearly leapt from his chair with rage! Gone was his lethargy of just a few minutes ago! And onto exploring deeply healing and creative ways of caring for himself and his students (and the energy to carry it out).
Feeling lethargic, burned-out or stagnant lately? Have you been afraid to be angry or express anger? Or is anger leading you down a destructive path, harmful to yourself and others? If so, it's time for a little reflection on anger. Read on.
Acknowledge your anger. Get to know it and its relationship with you.
Listen to what anger is trying to say. What is its message? Some examples may be...
Ask anger a few clarifying questions. Anger has some wisdom you could use, so be curious and ask.
A few more questions for anger to consider...
Reflect on what you've learned. What have you discovered about your present anger and its message?
I've found that once I've listened to my anger it becomes a wise adviser rather than a compulsive and destructive leader. Rather than taking its wrath out on me or others, it's much more willing to tone down or step aside. In fact, I find it's willing to...
Now that feels like sanity. And hopeful possibility...
May you continue to join Jesus on the way of life with and through your anger!
It's your turn. You step up to the plate and get ready for the pitch.
How do you hold the bat? Are you gripping it tightly?
My son's first season of Little League just ended and I watched the kids step up to the plate one by one with bat in hand. Most clutched it with all of their might, hoping to get a hit. And isn't it easy to see why a death grip might translate into a better chance to make contact with the ball?
The truth is, it doesn't.
Don't believe me? Watch the below video by Don Mattingly, MLB player, coach and manager. In holding the bat loosely, a batter has a better opportunity to not only hit the ball, but increase their bat speed. In other words, with less effort, they hit it harder and farther! Isn't that a paradox?!
We tend to have a death grip on all of life.
Harder equals better, so we think. This is especially true of the spiritual life...so much efforting. For many of us, we try really hard. If we don't get the results we want, we try harder. Our tendency can be to believe the more Scripture we read or the more we pray, the better Christians we'll be or the more God will love us. Instead we just add spiritual practices to our list of compulsions. We white-knuckle spiritual disciplines like we do people and other parts of our lives, hoping that in doing so we'll have more control and favorable outcomes.
Thomas Keating once said, "When we do less, God can act." He wasn't advocating lack of practice (it's still important for 6-year-olds to practice baseball skills!). The difference is in how and what we are practicing. Are we stepping up to the plate and squeezing the life out of the bat over and over again hoping for a different outcome? Or are we holding the bat loosely trusting that when the ball comes, we'll have the strength and power we need? Keating was inviting people into Centering Prayer, a way of prayer that seems counter to our way of life...being still in silence.
What if we relaxed our grip a bit? What if we practiced holding all things (and people) loosely? This kind of paradox-holding may be the spiritual exercise you need today. So whatever the practices are that help you release your stranglehold on life, those are the spiritual practices for you right now.
needs no finessing.
If a Scripture
leaves you guessing
And a child
is left asking
No need for
Your heart knows
it's an expert at fruit-tasting.
Two thousand years
something must be missing.
What might writer
and audience know
that you are not now knowing?
Are you familiar
with Gehenna, theophagy
or Roman laws for pack-carrying?
No? Well in Scriptures
that disturb you can be
treasures well worth finding.
Invite your mind
to start questioning
Text and culture
Or follow some Pharisees
when Jesus they were fearing
And the Son of Man
they began attacking
For all the laws
the Prince of Peace
the Lamb of God
Language of the heart
And the spirit of the law
Thus orphans, widows
and other outcasts
Is it time to start
digging, start seeking
For your heart knows
needs no further
Kasey is a scarf, ball and club juggling spiritual director just outside of Nashville, TN. Play helps her Type-A, Enneagram 1 personality relax, creating space for poetry and other words to emerge. She also likes playing with theological ideas like perichoresis, and all the ways we're invited into this Triune dance.