Archives For grace

Over The Edge(r)

randomlychad  —  April 30, 2013 — 12 Comments

This is a guest post from my friend, Ricky Anderson. Ricky is a Christian, husband, dad, database guy, and vehemently denies owning any more than one shed. His blog is at Ricky Anderson.net, and he can be followed on Twitter @Arthur2Sheds.

Please note that this post is part of a series on anger; there will be others as well.

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I was angry.

No, I was out of control. I had been sent out to edge and mow the lawn, and I was ticked.

Our edger was an old one; inordinately heavy and obnoxious to use. It was electric, which meant plugging in the extension cord and hoping it’d reach the end of the yard. Anything it didn’t reach had to be trimmed by hand. That edger and I didn’t get along.

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Partway through my disgruntled efforts, the cord got snagged on the swingset. I didn’t want to walk all the way across the yard to pull the cable around the pole it was stuck on, so I simply yanked.

And yanked.

And yanked.

Harder.

And harder.

With no result. In my 12-year-old immaturity, I lost it. I started bashing the edger into the ground. I yelled at that stupid edger. I pulled out every word I’d learned at school.

Then the head of the edger broke. I turned it off and dropped it. As I started to calm down, I was rational once again and became afraid. What would I tell Dad?

I looked up and froze. Dad was standing ten feet behind me. I didn’t know how long he’d been there.

I mentally started packing my bags for military school. Maybe the circus would take me, or one of my uncles. I didn’t know whether to run or cry, but I knew this was not going to go well.

After a few moments, my dad spoke.

“Well, I guess it’s time to replace that old weed whacker. Hop in the car, let’s go.”

We got a gas-powered edger that weighed next to nothing. It was wonderful. And Dad never said a word about my childish tantrum.

Sometimes when I’m angry about a situation and I’ve messed everything up, I don’t want to pray about it. I don’t want to go to my Father and show him what I’ve done. So I get angrier and angrier, avoiding what I know I need to do.

And I wonder if he’s watching the whole thing as my Dad did, just waiting for me to calm down and let Him “make all things new” (Revelation 21:5).

In her seminal work, On Death and Dying, the late Elizabeth Kubler-Ross identified five stages of grief:

denial

anger

bargaining

depression

acceptance

While she wrote specifically of death, and think these stages can rightly be applied to nearly any hardship. Take chronic illness for instance. We may deny the cancer, or other ailment, but wishing doesn’t make it go away. So we progress to anger, shaking our fists at the heavens, declaring “This isn’t fair, God! Take it away.”

When he doesn’t, we bargain–telling him “If you’ll…, I’ll…” It seems however that he doesn’t respond to such conditional statements, wanting to be loved (rather than analyzed). When this bargaining doesn’t work out, we often fall into depression.

Thoughts of hopelessness swirl through our heads, clouding our vision, obscuring the way ahead. We can’t see the light for the tunnel is one of (seeming) perpetual night. But this is a trick of perception. We are locked in our skins, time bound, lives progressing in one inexorable direction.

But God is outside of all that. Above, beyond, transcendent: not bound by the laws of physics that keep us tethered to our mortal frames. By implication this means that his goodness is also transcendent–above the artifices and capriciousness of man. We–Christians–who claim to know him best are often the worst at this:

Just because God can do a thing, doesn’t mean he must. Because he has the power to heal, doesn’t mean he will heal. I believe we, especially in the American Evangelical church, are truly bad at this–believing that God somehow owes us something.

That He must heal us. He must do nothing of the sort. A far greater petitioner asked that a certain cup be taken; it was not. And if his request was thus denied, doesn’t it stand to reason that some of ours will be as well? As it says in Hebrews, “He (Jesus) learned obedience through those things which he suffered.”

Our expectations for lives of ease and comfort run smack dab into the very real road of pain we must walk. And so we get tripped up in the stages of grief, and vacillate between denial, anger, bargaining, and depression.

Never believing that by embracing acceptance we will find freedom.

One of the principles of recovery, recited as litany week after week, is: “Accepting, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is.” Meaning that, as a fallen world, bad stuff happens.

Even to God’s children.

Please join me in the Serenity Prayer:

“God grant the courage to change the things I can, the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Amen.

Wisdom here dictates that God does not always answer our prayers the way we wish, or end our suffering when we wish. I wish he did, but until that day when he “shall wipe away every tear,” I pray for serenity, and for the grace to navigate my broken self, and this fallen world.

Will you join me?

Late last year, despite having gone to a men’s retreat, and having been there touched by Jesus, I found myself carrying a troublesome burden:

Anger.

I was angry at my wife, angry at life (and my station in it)… just angry.

But the truth is that hostility, and the rages borne of it, masked something much darker, more worrisome:

Fear.

I was angry because I was afraid, and I was afraid because life was
not working out as envisioned. In other words, I was afraid I wasn’t going to get what I wanted out of life. Sadly, that’s what was paramount to me: what I wanted.

If anything got in the way, I exploded. I wanted what I wanted. Damn the consequences. It’s taken many months, much prayer, and counseling to come to grips with what a selfish bastard I was. And how much the selfishness hurt those closest to me.

I never want to live in that place again. I want to forget, but I can’t. If I forget, I run the risk of going there again, right? Yes, love covers a multitude of sins, and mine are washed in the
blood of the Lamb, but there’s a reason God made us with memories–why we can’t forget. (Even though He remembers our sins no more, dropping them into the sea of forgetfulness).

If we forget, we perhaps will fail to learn the most basic lesson:

We’re not okay. It’s when things are going smoothly, life is working out, that we all have a tendency to drift. To think that we’re okay, that we’re not so bad after all.

So I for one, although I forgive myself, don’t want to forget the dark places I can go. Why do you think the Bible presents people as they are? Abraham, the friend of God, told the same lie about his wife, Sarah, on at least two occasions. Moses murdered an Egyptian. Samson… poster child of what not to do when one has taken a Nazarite vow. Barak wouldn’t go to the fight without Deborah. Gideon was weak of faith. Jephthah made a rash vow.

David wanted Bathsheba. We all know how that worked out.

Peter denied Christ… I could go on.

The point is that these stories, about people just as real as ourselves, are chronicled for our edification. They are told so that we don’t forget two things:

1) These oddballs were screwups (just like us) of the first order; and,
2) God loves, and uses, the screwups right where they are. And somehow manages to love them (and us) enough to not leave them where they are.

As it says in the Bible, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels to show that the excellency of the power is of God, and not of ourselves.”

How about you? Do you want to forget? Or do you want to fall into the arms of Grace Personified?

'Chris Harrison' photo (c) 2010, Greg Hernandez - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past several years, you are aware of the cultural phenomenon known as The Bachelor/ette. If not, it is a reality show that promises to help some poor sap a lucky man, or woman find their soulmate. The show’s track record so far ain’t so hot; out of the ninety-nine seasons which have aired, there have been two successful marriages.

Yet people keep coming back for more. True, the contestants are paid, pampered, wined, and dined, but we all know what the Good Book says about the love of money: it’s a root of all kinds of evil. The fact remains that some, questionable though their judgment may be, are really there for love. Others, as we’ve established are there for the money. Still others are there for the fleeting notoriety they get by being on the show.

I understand this perhaps best of all. I have done questionable things to make my name known. It may work for a time, but the truth wins out. We all of us have an inner “Holden Caulfield,” are thus able to sniff out “phonies.”
Continue Reading…

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Dear _________,

I know it’s a long time since we’ve spoken. Too long. Words have been said, but silence now reigns instead.

How did we get to this place?

How many misunderstandings have there been down the road of years to leave us feeling this way? Instead of a bridge, we build walls…

Dear ________, you need to know that I’ve been angry, and have harbored unforgiveness in my heart towards you. And it’s ugly. Like sunglasses, it colors all I view.

Will you forgive me?

Is there someone whose forgiveness you need to seek today? Dad, mom, brother, sister, friend… In your heart, you know. If you’re not sure, ask God–He’ll show you.