In the wake of the death of my marriage, I began a search for answers to questions that I knew had no answers, but the desire to know, unequivocally, what had gone so horribly wrong was too great. I had to know the answer to “Why?” More than just “Why did this happen to me?” I had to know “Why does this happen to anyone?” even “Why does this happen to everyone, in some form?” Which, really, boils down to the first question, plus a pointed noun, “Why, God?” Yet even in asking that question, in thinking long enough about it, one might even question the necessity of the comma, the necessity of the God, and simply, honestly, ask, “Why God?” When you’re in that place (and if you haven’t been, you will be, if you have an honest faith and live in the real world), indignation toward a ruthless God seems justified, maybe even righteous. You’re not entirely sure who you’re supposed to be mad at, but since God’s in charge of it all, He seems like the easiest to blame. So I laid my case before Him, and started using words in prayer I thought for sure were going to condemn me forever. In some ways I already felt that way, living through a hell on earth, so I didn’t feel as if I had much to lose.
God responded with a dreadful silence. I thought I’d said too much, been too honest, and I was about to be struck down for my insolent ways. I feared I was going to quickly meet my Maker face-to-face, to be allowed to plead my case in person.
Then I read this, in Mike Mason’s The Gospel According to Job:
“There are times when the Lord is actually honored and glorified by our anger at Him, in ways that He may not be by an attitude of unruffled ‘trust.’ Job provides a healthy balance to the traditional picture of the bloodless, gutless, cheerfully suffering saint. At the very least, anger means that we are taking God seriously and treating Him as a real person—real enough to arouse our passions. Angry prayer is not to be recommended as a steady diet, perhaps, but it is certainly preferable to lip-service prayer. Doesn’t artificiality in relationships belie a far greater hostility than the honest expression of deep emotion? In the prim and proper prayer lives of many devout folk, a good old-fashioned temper tantrum might be one of the best things that could happen. In the courts of Heaven there is a place for the primal scream.”
You’re probably familiar with Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream, but do you know its inspiration? From the venerable Wikipedia, a quote from Munch’s own diary, written January 22, 1892:
“I was walking along a path with two friends—the sun was setting—suddenly the sky turned blood red—I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence—there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city—my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety—and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.”
“… an infinite scream passing through nature.” That’s terrifying.
It was a year ago that I wept uncontrollably for everything that was breaking around me. It’s called a broken heart for a reason, and I felt as if that muscle inside my chest had been severed, with its separate halves wrenching apart, causing my entire body to split down the middle were it not for the glue of all-encompassing pain. That may sound entirely too melodramatic, but the words I used to describe that day, on the day it happened, included “convulsive,” “aching” and “despair.” It was like nothing I knew a human could experience. In retrospect, it was the the darkest valley of this journey.
Munch’s “infinite scream” had passed through me. I fear it must pass through us all, eventually. For me, it was the sudden and brutal realization that I was not the sole creator of my own destiny and that I cannot control the actions or wills of other people. It was hopelessness borne of desperation, awash in bitter tears. It was flailing hands to an uncaring universe, selfish cries of “Why me?!” to a silent God.
But what if that’s only part of the story? What if the “infinite scream” really originated, in part, from the only Infinite Being? What if the scream, that unearthly and primal sound that sputtered from my soul a year ago, was God’s rage at the injustice and the pain and the chaos and the hurt and the confusion and the sorrow of the entire ordeal, for all parties involved? What if that’s His infinite, primal scream, shouted at the dawn of time, coursing through our lives at times of utmost despair, echoing throughout creation, a wrenching pain leaving a lasting scar, like a sword to a side of flesh.
My God, my God …
What if His seeming silence … is because He’s been screaming with you?
Blake Atwood is a one-time English major still trying to figure out the plotline of his life. He lives and drums and has his being in Texas.