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Attention to Anger and Tears

Attention to Anger and Tears

I’ve been angry for about 2.5 days. I don’t entirely know why. Yesterday, I drove to Charleston, SC, and most of the way, I was in the car, irritated, ticked, my mind roaming from one fuming, scary, dark thought to another. I even came close to getting into a fight with a lady in the parking lot of a gas station. I don’t think my tempestuous place was helped any by the fact that I was listening to Alanis Morissette for a good stretch of the drive. Great artist, lots of honesty and truth – but sometimes she can be just a tad bit peeved. 

My normal response is to only deal with the surface, the emotion. Ignore it. Wait it out. Distract myself with noise. Medicate it with any number of addictive tendencies.

Better questions to ask myself would be: What is happening here? What is bubbling up in my soul? What am I really angry about?

I believe the same is true of tears. I’ve noticed lately that I’m often on the verge of tears. Many things can prompt the emotion to rise: a word, a memory, a surge of passion, a sense of regret, a goofy moment with Wyatt or Seth, the beauty of my wife Miska. Far too often, though, the tears come right to the edge, but they do not tip over. They do not fall, free and furious. I feel something in me backing down, backing off. I’m an “enlightened male” and would (of course) insist that tears are good. However, something inside me wants to move past them – quickly.

It’s a mistake. It’s a mistake to move past tears (or anger), to simply try to “get over it” or to brush them aside. Frederick Buechner says that “whenever you find tears in your eyes…it is well to pay the closest attention. They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are, but more often than not God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and is summoning you to where, if your soul is to be saved, you should go next.”

Something is happening in my soul. I don’t know all of what it is, but I know that I must pay attention. I must sit with this, listen to this, and ask God where he is in all of it, where he is poking and prodding, uncovering wounds and longings and hopes and fears. I believe that my anger and my tears are signals of redemption. If only I will pay attention…

Jesus wept as he encountered the pain of Mary and Martha’s sorrow over Lazarus’ death. Jesus was violently angry when he cleared the temple courts. We easily dissect the theological intent of Jesus’ actions, but I wonder if we have paid close enough attention to Jesus’ raw emotion. Why did he weep? Why was he angry? Why are we?

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