I am an angry person.
After 2 months of sabbatical, this was my new (but not so new) revelation from my introspection.
People who don’t know me so well often raise an eyebrow. I’m such a gregarious personality on the outside, always ready with a cheesy joke said at the most inappropriate time.
But simmering below is a cauldron of frustration and unquenchable rage… and people who know me have seen it- whether it was my childhood tantrums, my high school mopiness, or the slamming down of the beer glass at the bar while yelling obscenities about a situation- people have seen it and sometimes it shocks people… and somehow- although it has happened repeatedly in my life- it has always shocked myself as well, along with a hangover of shame for the next few days that I had lost control.
During these 2 months of sabbatical, there have been moments of peace. There have been opportunities to unwind, to read things I haven’t been able to read without a deadline, to reconnect with friends whom I value- but throughout it all, there has been an underlying buzz of anger in me that bursts out of me at the smallest things… whether it be an assumption someone makes about me, or someone cutting me off on the freeway, or hearing a Sunday message I don’t agree with- the underlying buzz has come much closer to the surface in these last couple months, and has erupted out of me much more than I’d like to admit.
And I have to come to terms that this is not just some alternative Hyde to my Jekyll… This is me, and I am not ignoring an insane element in me, but I have tried to silence this part of me for so long and have never been successful at it.
I am an angry person, I am angry about so many things- some things true, some things not- but I am so damn angry.
- I am angry at the media shit-storm I experienced last year over a stupid yelp review
- I am angry at the isolation I felt in North County as an Asian American for 7 years.
- I am angry that I had to sit through so many stupid racist assumptions and jokes about me those years.
- I am angry at that feeling that I have had to fight for people to pay attention to community colleges for so many years, while watching students actually physically die…
- …I am so angry that I got left having to take care of Anthony the week before he died.
- …I am angry that I couldn’t tell something was wrong with Alfred’s health when I drove him home a few days before he passed.
- I am angry at the cluelessness and generalizations people have made of my ministry.
- I am angry that people assume that I am just a bunch of loud jokes like I can’t handle “real things”.
- I am angry at the trauma I’ve experienced through watching my home church fracture and split so many times over the years
- I am angry at the religious manipulation I have experienced in my years as a Christian, that has driven so many of my friends from church
- I am angry at whoever taught me that to be a leader is to pretend that I am invincible, that nothing bothers me, I am angry that I am taught to bottle it all up, I am angry at people calling me “dramatic” when I finally decide to voice my anger
- I am angry that I feel so incompetent these days at my job
… the list goes on. And the thing is- this anger can be so righteous. In fact, it’s one of my strongest drivers in ministry, it’s what makes me want to protect people, it’s what makes me want to take risks, it’s what spurs me to prophetically call out the fake counterfeits and to challenge people to hope for something truer and more real…
…but there have been times during these last two months (and throughout my years in ministry) when I just feel like I’ve been oozing bitterness… It feels gross. It feels un-cleanable and unloveable. There are times my anger is holy fire, but there are other times my anger is thick tar that covers and chokes my being.
And I have been like the bitter elder son outside of the house, full of resentment…
“Everything I have is your’s…” says the Father.
My fists clench. I want to celebrate. I want to have joy. But I just feel too toxic to receive it.
I am like the disciples, feeling alone and desperate in a sea of 5000 hungry people and not knowing how to feed them all. I am angry with the Father telling me to feed all these people when I barely have enough to feed myself. I feel bitter, toxic cynicism as the little boy brings 5 tiny loaves and 2 fish to Jesus…
…but as I watch him break the bread, and see the pieces of bread multiply abundantly, more than even the 5000 need… I realize that in the deepest part of my being, I want to be a part of this- but I feel so ashamed of my anger, my bitterness, of my cynicism. He looks intently at me until I look back into His eyes. He repeats, “Everything I have is your’s…”
I look away. And He is so angry at these vendors in the temple court of my heart, that I have built, cheating myself out of receiving His love, putting imaginary fees on the gift of His grace that He has already paid so dearly for. Rage flickers in his eyes and his chest heaves in exasperating gasps as He throws the tables aside, yelling at the top of His lungs, “This place is to be a house of prayer, of communion with me, but you have made it a den of robbers!”
And in the midst of that underlying buzz of anger in my being- at myself, at everyone else, at God… within His being is an underlying song of grace, building up, ready to burst forth in the holy fire of that deep violent compassionate twisting of His stomach that I am starving because I am cheating myself from experiencing His love, constantly beckoning me to come back in, ready to give me more than I could ever imagine instead of always exiling myself outside the house with resentment and imaginary rules, showing me it is safe to give all of myself to Him because He has already given me all of Himself, and it is more than I could have ever imagined receiving…
God, overturner of tables and gentle Father who beckons me in- teach me that angry gentleness, that violent compassion, that grace that rips veils… and I know- first, before I can imitate it, I have to allow my heart to be engulfed in that same Grace.