the Lord hears when I call to him.
4 Be angry, and do not sin;
ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent.
5 Offer right sacrifices,
and put your trust in the Lord.
I’ve been angry lately. Frustrated. Hurt. Angry. Downright pissed. Life, as my friend said to me recently, isn’t turning out the way I might have expected. Reality is not meeting my expectations, and I’m livid. I literally cannot see straight.
For most of my life I’ve had a default response to mad — seethe, mutter, slow boil until bursting, then slam, yell, stomp, and verbalize the snot out of anyone in my path. It’s pretty gratifying, actually. It’s a release that refreshes. Ah,…I got that off my chest, I grin. However, that release and refreshing lasts a maximum of four to five minutes before regret and shame show up. I see the carnage in my path of destruction, and I realize what my anger has caused. My rage hasn’t cured my problem; I have just transferred my hurt onto whoever or whatever was in my path. While momentarily satisfying, rage is not productive; it’s destructive.
After a face-to-face encounter with reality over the weekend, I was already well into the slow boil of anger on Monday evening when I walked into our small group. Because the anger is related to the unspoken broken* in my life, I had resolved to armor up, batten down the hatches, and ‘get through’ our Bible study reflection with my husband and the three others in attendance. To my relief, others carried the conversation, so I was able to focus on keeping my yap shut and clutching my pain in my fists.
The discussion was business-related — projects, strategies, etc. I was thankful that the topic was outside my area of interest and enjoying my silence when a friend said, “Kristin, are you familiar with the Lean strategy?” My answer, “No,” was probably curt and clipped. However, since I’m an adult and I am truly not trying to be overtly rude, I did turn my gaze toward him and maintain eye contact for the next few minutes. I heard nothing except, “you can’t set goals until you determine what the problem is. People always want to talk about the symptoms, but you have to identify the problem.”
And so began an internal spiral past all kinds of symptoms in search of a root problem. This one is complex. What, Kristin, is the problem here? Don’t just look at symptoms. And so, the internal hum gained some fuel and continued its slow boil.
My body doesn’t know what else to do. This problem and its symptoms will not abate overnight, and though not essentially mine, they have immediate and far-reaching impact on my reality. I can feel the hum in my cells. They are trying to do what they know how to do — solve, soothe, fix — but they are coming up empty.
Yesterday, a conversation with my therapist allowed some deep hurt to surface, and I came home a bit calmer. My slow boil had been reduced to a simmer. I quietly and slowly moved through the motions for an hour or so — preparing dinner, changing the laundry, sweeping the kitchen floor. I ate dinner with my husband, brushed out the dog’s coat, then took a warm shower.
It was only 7:45 when I climbed into bed, picked up Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale, and started the slow descent toward what I hoped would be sleep. Sleep has been difficult — I take elaborate measures to calm the hum that churns all day. Sometimes if I read fiction, I can calm myself enough to close my eyes and fall asleep. Other times, like last night, I can sense that quieting the hum is going to require a little more intentionality. After about an hour of reading about two brave women surviving World War II in France, I reached to my nightstand and grabbed Barbara Brown Taylor’s Learning to Walk in the Dark, the book that my breakfast club and I are reading.
Taylor’s book is a slow examination of literal and metaphorical darkness. It asks questions like why are we afraid of the dark? what would happen if we turned out some lights, put down our technology, and actually sat in the darkness? how important are the rhythms of light and dark (both literal and metaphorical) in our lives and what happens when we subvert those rhythms? It’s contemplative to be sure.
The chapter I opened to last night first met me where I was: Taylor affirmed that “we find ourselves unable to […] sleep, […with] several free hours to obsess about everything from how we will pay our Visa bills to who will take care of us when we can no longer take care of ourselves” (64). Indeed. My solve, soothe, fix mechanism is strong, and I can spend a whole nighttime obsessing about how to alleviate symptoms or searching for the root problem.
Then, Taylor spoke to my heart with the words of poet Li-Young Lee, “All light is late.” Four small words that reminded me that understanding often comes after acting, that wisdom is found in hindsight, and that, though late, light always arrives.
Finally, Taylor spoke right to my unspoken broken* in words that can only be ordained by God and penned by her hand: “it is sometimes hard to tell whether you are being killed or saved by the hands that turn your life upside down” (67). It is truly hard for me to discern whether the ache inside is a symptom of dying or resurrection, but I trust in the God of restoration even when I cannot see.
He is with me in the light and in the dark. He calls me to lie down on my bed and be silent. He encourages me to read and to ponder in my heart. He urges me to offer my unspoken broken up to Him. He reminds me to trust Him because He holds everything in the palm of His hand.
In my anger, I call out to Him. He hears me.
*Voskamp, Ann. The Broken Way.