Today’s post is another in our ongoing series about anger. I’m thrilled to be hosting Chris Morris (see his bio at the end of the post).
I called my pastor for the same reason most people call their pastor—my life was falling apart, and I didn’t know what to do. My daughter’s health had taken a definite turn for the worse. She has always had seizures, but they were increasing at a staggering rate, so that she’d had more in the previous week than her entire young life. Add to this, her neurologist didn’t believe I was telling the truth.
So I scheduled a sit-down with my pastor, to get some practical guidance…since I am a hothead and don’t always handle tense situations the best. I am not sure exactly what I expected, but nothing prepared me for what he said. He essentially told me my own sin was opening the door for the Devil to give my daughter seizures. I needed to repent if I hoped to see my daughter healed.
I did not repent of anything that day, though in retrospect I should have, because I was angry. My daughter’s seizures were not then and are not now my fault. I don’t have a secret sin that opens a mystical pathway for terror to enter my family’s life.
I stayed angry for a very long time about this conversation. I tried to keep serving, in the hopes my anger would dissipate over time. But it didn’t; instead, it crystallized and poisoned my heart. I became a huge critic of my pastor, even though my judgments rarely left my mind. I was stuck in a prison created not by his words, but by my anger.
We did eventually move to a different church, but my anger still imprisoned. I never gave wholly of myself to this church. Nobody could be trusted, my anger told me. And I believed my anger. So I stayed isolated even as I lead small groups with my church.
One morning I woke up and realized I was basically alone in the world. I had people who were for me, who loved me, and who wanted the best for me and my life, but I was not sharing anything of value with anyone.
I saw then my anger toward my former pastor was less about being mad, and much more about feeling betrayed. I had placed my hope in this well-meaning pastor, and he disappointed me. So I shoved myself into a prison of anger to protect from future harm. In this moment, I saw glimpses of my life over the past few years through the eyes of my God.
A kind hearted man asked how I was doing almost every week for months. I lied each time and said I was fine, then walked away. He silently prayed for peace in my heart as I walked back into my isolation chamber. He sees the weight on my shoulders, but cannot force me to talk. Eventually he stopped asking.
My wife asked how my day went. It was awful, because I got falsely accused of something I would never do, but I don’t trust anyone with my heart. I say, “Fine.” Nothing more, only “Fine.” She smiled sadly, hugs me fiercely, and says, “I love you.” I missed the tear in her eye, because I was too busy hiding my heart.
On and on it went in my mind’s eye. People who wanted to be in my life, and not on the outside looking in. But my anger, my hurt, had locked me out of the ability to participate in my own life. I became an actor in my own life, playing a part but not living a life. I wept, and then took the keys that were in my pocket the whole time and unlocked the prison my anger put me in. I started living again. Trusting again. Caring again.
This was about a year ago, and I am getting better. I would be lying if I told you I am never angry, hurt, or disappointed with people anymore. The ignorance I get about the seizure my daughter and I have continued to challenge my faith in humankind. So yes, I visit the angry prison cell some days. But now I know I have the keys. And I use them.