I have only just begun this journey towards a lifestyle of Thanksgiving, starting to feel the rhythm of this God awareness in all I see, all I do, and those I hold dear. And then, a day like this... a window slammed shut, not on fingers, but on my heart. Today is a day that no matter how hard I try, I cannot forget the losses and challenges that define the life of a family of four with six diagnoses between us. (Yes, there are now two more.) Diabetes bellows and PTSD hammers at my soul, and I snap. Five years of stress and struggle and spiritual warfare pour out of my mouth, long hidden anger reaches a crescendo.
In One Thousand Gifts, Ann speaks of salvation from angry, bitter, and resentful lives. And this I have learned over time: Anger is a natural cue that something wrong has happened. It's a God given alert to something that needs to be dealt with. Women are taught that anger detracts from loveliness, and when it is repressed until we explode, or carried as a satchel, it does. But the first stirrings, the recognition that harm has been done, that is akin to what Jesus felt when he defended the oppressed and chased the money changers out of God's holy temple. Where we get into trouble is when we hold on to our anger, trying to use it as power over those who've hurt us. Scarring deepens as we chew on anger, turning it over and over in our minds and hearts until that bitter taste has permeated our souls. Bitterness can turn us into resentful, poisonous, death walkers.
What is the cure for this diseased cycle? I know- I remember this lesson, the first learning which began with giving thanks, my own heart cry to him:
I give thanks to You, Jesus, that you chose to hold the nails, to bear my mark, my shame, my loss. You took the weight of my own sin, my every imperfection, and you stayed. You tarried in the place of anguish- so I could have release.
And the refrain that follows, rejoicing, choosing, echoes hope; "Because you forgive me still, I choose to extend that same forgiveness to one who hurt me."
This forgiveness is not an excusing of the offense, such as "He could not help it"... Nor is it pretending I am not angry at the wounding. For I am. And I have good reason. Yet what frees me, what leads me to "Sozo"--salvation, and wholeness-- what looses my shackles is admitting where I am, what I feel, what I judged, and why. And the choice is mine- to be like Jesus or to be like those who crucified him: angry, sullen, sin-sick and clenching hatefulness.
I name this gift aloud, the gift of Jesus... Even on the cross he forgave his tormentors. Not after He rose again, but from the midst of his greatest torment. I am washed in awe at human flesh mangled into a bloody mess, yet crying out, "Father, Forgive them, for they know not what they do!"
This "Sozo" salvation begins with gratitude for what Jesus bore for me. The next step is forgiveness. Faith without forgiveness leaves us still shackled to the oppressor. Not one of us deserves forgiveness. It is a gift. It's been offered. We can choose to do the work to break the chains.
Healing, which I know I still need in hidden places, is worth the work. A ball like tangled string may be buried deep, but my Healer tenderly unearths each strand, unwinding what has knotted my soul. Soothing, covering, restoring. Healing hands are firm, but gentle, rebuilding what was broken, breathing newness and life. Setting the order, the how and the why and the when. Asking me to bend and not remain frozen.
I speak my choice, "I submit to the removing", I pray out each offense, each wound, as He leads. And I choose to walk free.