You may recall that just the other day I wrote about the five stages of grief and my attempt to get to acceptance via shoe-shopping. Of course these phases are not linear, as I would sensibly tell anyone else in the grieving process. But it's hard to be sensible about my own process, and I believe that by claiming acceptance I was hoping to edge past anger altogether.
Although I am a word person, finding words to express my feelings about what being ill means for my work life and my personal life challenges me. I like to package things. That is not to say that I like to make them nice, but I do like to make them pretty, to put all the words needed into an artful sentence, to carefully put the sentences into a paragraph, and then to stand back admiringly.
When I allow myself to get near my anger, I lose that ability.
On Tuesday? I lost it.
On Tuesday I attended a denominational meeting, which I referenced in a post later in the day. What I didn't tell you, what I could not put into words, or at least not into prettily arranged words, would be how very, very angry I felt as I left the meeting.
Anger frightens me. I grew up in a household where one parent never, ever got angry and the other one only got angry at me and her anger invariable ended in a blow of some kind. I love words, but anger comes from a place that might be labeled post-verbal, or at least post-articulate. Or perhaps it is simply pre-verbal for me, a place where every kind of fear (survival, abandonment, rejection, worthlessness) comes screaming up from my core.
Yes, that's it. The adult expression may be post-articulate or extra-articulate, but the component emotion rises from the base of who I am, that frightened baby passed from one adult to another, afraid the cycle will never end, convinced she must be at fault or it would not be happening.
I would like to know why, at 47, I am still working on this.
I have "articulated" this question before. I would like to move on to some other key text that does not include the lilies of the field and the advice to stop worrying about tomorrow. I would love not to be in that place where the future seems ominous and unknown.
Because there can be a difference in how we approach the unknown. If we approach it from a secure base (yes, I'm referring to Bowlby), it's one thing. And that may well describe the source of my anger on Tuesday. It began with my reaction to an infuriatingly smug colleague. On the leading edge, which is to say moving to post-denominationalism, he seemed so SURE of everything. Stuff that I might have deemed "cool" about his work and his church I instead found threatening and disturbing.
Probably the comment that set me off was one–well, no, there were two. First was a remark about the growing trend toward bivocationalism for pastors. I would like to mention that women with families, unless they share things extraordinarily equally with their partners, are ALREADY bivocational. I know I am. Second, in response to a question I asked about whether being post-denominational meant giving up health and pension benefits, I got a response to my own situation with chronic illness about God providing a way.
I left incensed. INCENSED!!!! "God will provide a way," I muttered, "tell that to the people in frickin' Darfur!!!"
Clearly, my colleague is not entirely responsible for the situation in Darfur or my Rheumatoid Arthritis or the general decline of mainline denominations. Lord, I never met him before that morning. "Who am I so angry at?" I asked this question as I drove away, poor grammar and all, because, you know, pre-verbal, etc.
And I concluded, fairly quickly, I WAS ANGRY WITH GOD!!!!!!!!!!
Raised to be a good and respectful girl who does not show inappropriate emotions to figures in authority, I find it problematic to be angry with God.
But, I was. (Maybe I still am.)
I got in the car. I thought about calling someone. I ran through a list in my mind of friends and trusted colleagues I might be able to turn to in my moment of distress, but some were not available and others were still at the meeting that had MADE ME SO ANGRY!!!!!
(Yes, it's still there. A bit.)
Finally I shook my finger skyward and said, "I'M ANGRY WITH YOU!!!!"
In fact, there may have been some colorful language involved, as I clearly expressed myself from that post-articulate frame of mind described above.
I felt better and worse, both, better for expressing what I really felt, worse because I might know in theory that others feel angry toward God, but in practice, it feels lonely.
I called my friend, RevFun, and got his voice mail. I hung up, but then reconsidered. I left him a borderline tearful, none-too-articulate message, saying something like this:
"Hi, it's Songbird. I just came from that meeting we were all invited to and I had a head-on collision with myself, I mean not a real collision in the car, I'm fine, but a head-on collision with HOW ANGRY I AM, and I realized I'm ANGRY WITH GOD, and I'm too ANGRY WITH GOD to pray, and I wonder, would you pray for me? Thanks."
Later in the afternoon, I heard my phone ringing during a meeting and let it go to voicemail. I was feeling better, having finally reached will smama and told her much the same things I left on RevFun's voice mail, which helped a lot. After the meeting, I called for the message, and here is what he said:
"I couldn't even go to the meeting because *I* was too angry with God."
Which made me laugh.
Later he turned up at my church unexpectedly. Talk about a sight for sore eyes. We're both wandering in the discernment wilderness. What does God want from us? How can we be any more faithful than we think we have already been? Are we doing something wrong?
How do I sort out the seeming call to new church work with the chronic illness and the need to keep the same health insurance and the gifts for interim ministry and the desirability of living closer to where I work and the important needs of a 13-year-old who is happy where she is? Why is it so complicated?
And why can't I bend my fingers to touch my palms when I wake up in the morning?
I wish Job could have had better friends. I surely love mine. Even in the midst of anger with God, I had friends to meet me exactly where I sat, or drove, or called, or cried. I'm grateful for them.
And, yes, I'm grateful to God, though I don't imagine God set me up with this or that particular one, providing a way in that micro-managing sense. Because if God did, then we still need to talk about the Rheumatoid Arthritis. Not to mention Darfur.