I haven't written about the topic of anger as much as I've intended to recently. While I did post my notes from one of the best sermons I've ever heard on the topic, I haven't expounded as I had hoped to.
As previously noted, the healing of anger comes via a three-step approach: 1) Admitting you are angry, 2) Analyzing your anger, and 3) Transforming your anger.
While I feel I've made significant steps in the past year on the admission, I'm not too quick to pat myself on the back. There are still many situations, I'm sure, where I am not so urgent in my attempts to own up to my disordered angers. And then there are those where I have no shame in admitting it. Like today.
This morning the phone rang uncharacteristically early for my sister to be calling on a Saturday. I had a premonition of something's-not-right-in-the- world when I heard her voice.
Physical violence toward innocent people is something that most of us only see in movies. We trivialize it because it rarely touches us in any real form. And because we cannot fully comprehend the pain of the brutalities that we know exist, but for the most part are able to avoid.
I have a cousin who wasn't able to avoid them. Last night, her husband of less than a year beat her beyond physical recognition. This morning she laid in a hospital, awaiting an MRI to assess the possible brain damage she may have suffered.
Most times, in spousal abuse cases, the police have the uniquely sad restriction of requiring the victim to press charges before they can take appropriate action. In the most brutal and exceptional cases, however, there is provision for the police to take action when the victim is unable to respond (ie. the victim is unconscious, etc.). My cousin's husband remains a fugitive with a warrant for arrest currently issued for him.
Meanwhile, the doctors think that my cousin will recover. They didn't use the adjective "fully" - I can only assume this means lasting physical disfigurements. They have already said, however, that were something even half as severe were to happen to her again, it would certainly kill her. The rest of the lasting effects remain to be determined at this point.
I have been angry all day. I took a long, angry run, I ran til it hurt, and then I turned around and ran all the way back. I've tried to keep my mind off of it, but everything keeps coming back to the anger. The video game, the movie, the book. Even just now, reviewing tomorrow's lesson on the virtue of forgiveness. Right now I'm not really sure I can lead the lesson with a clean conscience.
One of the illustrations in the lesson is the story of Amy Biehl, as recalled by Desmond Tutu in his book, No Future Without Forgiveness. Amy was a young American student at Stanford who studied in South Africa during the final years of apartheid. One day, while giving some of her friends a ride home, a gang of angry youth forced her and her friends from the car, then beat and stabbed her to death. He goes on to talk about how Amy's parents didn't oppose the amnesty applications of her killers, but attended the hearings and supported the process of reconciliation, even setting up a foundation in Amy's name to help the youths from the town she was killed in.
I've often look at these people, the ones who are able to experience the worst violence this world has to offer, and who are then able to forgive freely - I've looked at them and honestly thought that they must be ignorant. They must be able to ignore the overwhelming sense of injustice, and their forgiveness, while admirable, isn't really a fully understanding, fully cognizant one, but rather a forced-oblivion forgiveness that the person's subconscious must necessitate for survival.
I think I've felt this because I'm afraid that I wouldn't be able to forgive as they do, and so I want an excuse, in advance.
Today I got to face that situation, in my own small way.
I am angry. But I have not sinned, in my anger. I'm not sure that I would be able to say the same were I to cross paths with my cousin's husband, and as such I'm praying that justice will be served before that would ever happen. I don't believe that this kind of anger is wrong - in fact I believe that righteous anger is almost impossible to have on behalf of one's self - but most often had on behalf of others who have experienced injustice.
So, I've admitted, and I've analyzed. The first instantaneously and the second pretty much all day long.
Transforming it. That's the hard part. How to reconcile a manifest evil. Sin in its ugly, physical state. How do you turn a deaf ear to that? How do you keep on forgiving when you see the scars on her face?
We have the ultimate example. The One who died at the hands of the world's unrestrained fury, who took the cup of anger and became the very incarnation of loving the sinner and hating the sin. The One who lived out His own words: "Love your enemies..." and as such, saved them from their anger itself.
So its not like I have an excuse to not forgive.
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