Ride The Anger Or Be Overcome
Scripture: Obadiah 1-4, 10-21
I was hiking through the mountains of New Mexico when I first truly saw it. It had likely been there for awhile, but in the busyness of life, and in the overwhelming emotional weight of the season I had not paid it much attention. I had been coasting on fumes for weeks and finally in the welcoming warmth of northern New Mexico I slowed down long enough to see it. I had been stunned. I had been in disbelief. I had cried out what felt like every tear within my being. And now my blurry vision was seeing something more. I was angry. It had been several weeks since I learned my college friend had died and this emotion was finally coming into clarity.
I knew conceptually this was considered one of the stages of grief, but I was shocked to find such deep seated animosity expanding from my gut. This death did not seem fear. This was tragic. Why had God not prevented it?!? There was so much more I wanted to say to my friend. Why had I not taken the time to say it?!? I looked with contempt on all the systems, institutions, and people upon which I wanted to hang blame for the loss of my friend. I was even upset with how the world seemed to just move on and on, unfazed by the passing of people. I wanted the universe to come to a screeching halt and lament the loss of my friend. I was angry with the whole universe.
I began to journal about the anger and share it with some close friends who were with me on this trip. They offered no easy answers and no quick fixes. Mostly deep listening, warm hugs, whispered prayers, and their presence. I remember staring up into the vast, clear, dazzling late night star studded sky and wanting to feel close to the Creator, but instead feeling angry. I lingered for awhile with the other star gazers, but retired back to my room more quickly than most. Sometimes the scars of this world and of our own lives blur our ability to see beauty.
In the book of Obadiah, the Hebrew people are experiencing a deep grief over being conquered and exiled in Babylon. Interestingly, it is the people of Edom, the Jewish people’s neighbors and ancestral brothers, who bear the brunt of this anger and not the Babylonians. The people place their hop in The Day of Yahweh, but this hope seems deeply linked with the anticipation that the objects of their anger will come to a bad end. The people of Edom had not lived as good neighbors, but the Jewish people anticipate the day of their comeuppance. Anger can seem all consuming at times. Anger can overwhelm us. We don’t always see straight or act in ways of faithfulness.
The prophets proclaim how justice which will find Edom, and the Jewish people seemingly hope it will be retributive instead of restorative. Anger often results from feeling out of control. The temptation is to then act in ways that show just how powerful, decisive, and aggressive we can be. We overcompensate in our sense of powerlessness.
Annie Dillard writes, “In the deeps are the violence and terror of which psychology has warned us. But if you ride these monsters deeper down, if you drop with them farther over the world’s rim, you find what our sciences cannot locate or name, the substrate, the ocean or matrix or ether which buoys the rest, which gives goodness its power for good, and evil its power for evil, the unified field: our complex and inexplicable caring for each other, and for our life together here. This is given. It is not learned.”
When we ride our anger we acknowledge we were never in ultimate control and never will be. As we allow the impulses to lash out in blame and lay punishment on people, we come to see how any old scapegoat will do. Often there may be real ‘guilty’ parties, but we come to see how we are all human, and in moments all guilty. Experiencing ourselves as angry gives us back our voice and allows us to funnel this gut-wrenching energy into our healing, and the healing of the world. We stop casting stones, and begin rebuilding.