But God said to Jonah, ‘Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?’ And he said, ‘Yes, angry enough to die.’ (Jonah 4:9, NRSV)
I seem to have no end of connections to this week’s lectionary passages. Friday night I was just as ludicrously, futilely angry as Jonah, and I certainly felt angry enough to die. It’s an unjust world, and in those minutes I was the target of the greatest injustice.
At least that’s how it felt.
It started with a brief interaction with an apparently cranky-at-the-end-of-the-day person to whom I used to be married. He reacted to, rather than answering, a question about the weekend schedule for our two-household family, and in that reaction he struck an old nerve. When we could speak away from the children, I asked what that was all about. He nearly apologized, but stopped short and instead turned it around in my direction. “I don’t call you on it when you’re inappropriate.”
That word—inappropriate—goes to my deepest wounded places.
Remember the other day, I was writing about my mothers and how I wanted to finally get over this old misery that keeps bothering me no matter how much time goes by? Just to be sure, “the voice of the Lord came to (Songbird) a second time.” (See Jonah 3:1) And soon I was slamming doors and scrubbing the bathtub in manic fashion and finally sitting down at the top of the stairs for what became an unpleasant cry while lying on the little rug at the top of the stairs with my legs hanging over and tears running down into my ears.
The worst kinds of thoughts were running through my mind, as they do when this particular sore spot is aggravated. Obviously no one will ever think well of me, including my children, who would be better off without me…
“Yes, angry enough to die.”
I have a kind husband and an understanding almost grown-up son who witnessed the first part of the difficulties, and the three of us went out to dinner and talked about why I respond the way I do.
“That’s old stuff,” my wise son said, surprised that it stays with me.
It’s that word inappropriate, I explained. I was inappropriate from the very beginning of my life, before the beginning of my life, the result of an inappropriate set of actions.
“Nothing that resulted in you could be inappropriate,” he said.
I started to feel a little better. After all, I do have these rather nice children, don’t I? And a life partner who actually works at understanding me. We have what I dreamed of, we really do. The only thing that threatens it seems to be my inability to let go of the past, my stubborn inability to release my personal people of Nineveh and let God decide what to do with them. I am too willing to lie in the heat of the day, angry enough to die.
Jonah, Jonah, Jonah.
I don’t want to be like you, Jonah.
I felt some of the after-tremors again today as I sat in the office waiting to hear about the congregation’s vote on the budget. Could I respond to bad news in a way that didn’t involve self-destructive anger?
As it turned out, the events of the day did not put me to the test. The budget passed, which is to say I’m getting a raise, and I sat down to a quite nice potluck lunch. I even came home with an entire chocolate cake.
There is still work to do on the inner Bird. Next Sunday’s gospel lesson has Jesus casting out an unclean spirit. Maybe that will help.