Ever since a deadly tornado swept through Joplin, Missouri, and decimated the town, I have been wrestling with the lack of knowledge about my family who live there. One of the missing was my Great Aunt, Mary. At first, I was so afraid for her and worried about whether or not she was safe. Mary is elderly and suffers from multiple health issues. She had recently been a patient at the nursing home that was totally destroyed in the disaster. I had no way to find out if she was all right because the phones are down and my family that lives around Joplin cannot get into the city limits because the National Guard have closed the roads.
As the days went on, I found that, while I was still filled with worry and concern for my family, anger was beginning to emerge. I wasn’t angry at God, or that the tornado occurred. I was angry that, despite all our technology and capability, we have been unable to get information about people. The phone were still out. The lists of those found and those confirmed deceased are far from complete. Estimates on those missing are over 1,500. I was angry that I could not help my family. I was angry that those who tried to help were turned away. I was angry that after four days, nothing yielded any answers.
Sometimes, I was fine, functional. Other times, the anger washed over me and flowed through my veins. I got so upset that I lashed out, and hurt those around me with sarcasm, irreverence, and indifference. Instead of being outwardly focused, I turned inward and struggled to focus on anything else. I spent a lot of time thinking about why this is on Wednesday night. I had an epiphany. My Great Aunt Mary is one of the few in my family, on both sides, who has been very intentional about cultivating and continuing a relationship with me, my husband, and my son. She was related to my grandmother, who is deceased, by marriage, yet she has never been anything but gracious and loving to me. Even though the blood that animates my life, is unrelated to hers, she has always accepted me as her own flesh and blood. Such selfless love and devotion is a rare thing in this world, and so I have treasured her. She and I would regularly correspond through the mail, sending letters back and forth every month or two. I always smiled when I saw her script on the outside of an envelop and looked forward to hearing about things back in Joplin. She would often include a picture of my grandparents she found, or some childhood photograph of my father. Little treasures worth nothing to anyone else, but precious to me. The thought that she was wrenched from my life in this way without being able to say goodbye is more than I could stand. The notion that she could have perished and her body left in the rubble is sickening. Sometimes it seems like no one on the ground there doing the searching and rescuing cares since they denied my family the opportunity to look, while I care so very much and cannot assist in the search efforts. I had been rendered helpless, and I despised it.
So I pray. I pray for forgiveness for my inability to be in control of my anger. I pray for the safety of my missing family. I pray for God’s presence to be of comfort to those in Joplin. I pray that the searches will be fruitful, even if it only yields information instead of life. I pray that I will find a better way to cope, and that I will grow stronger, deeper from this experience. I pray in thanksgiving for all the support I have received from my other family, friends, and church members. I pray with deepest gratitude for the grace I have been granted, which I do not deserve. And when I feel that anger start to rise, I channel it. I funnel it to positive activity, and generate goodness from my emotions. Sometimes, I go home to empty house and scream. Sometimes I ball my hands into the tightest of fists and feel the tension in my muscles, then I open my hands, relaxing my fingers and feel the anger slip away, dissipate. Sometimes I read scripture about anger and remember that I am not the first nor the last to be angry. God knows anger, God bears it even when it is not God’s.
Here was Jesus so angry that, despite all the good he had done, people still wanted to use it against him. They disapproved of his healing simply because it was done on the Sabbath. This they would hold against him? Jesus then channels his anger, and heals. He uses his anger as a catalyst for good. That’s what I want to do. That’s what I plan to do with my anger, now and forever. It’s not an excuse to do wrong; it’s a reason to take all this powerful energy and put it to work for the glory of God. There is such a thing as righteous anger, and what makes it most righteous is what we do with it. My anger will no longer be a burden, but a source of strength, a means to God’s greater end.
(Image courtesy of designbydrake.com)
God of Power and Might,
As your creation, crafted in your image,
We have the power of anger at our disposal.
We can call it up in an instant,
Wield it like a weapon of war.
We can cause immeasurable harm with just a word spoken in anger.
Help us to find another way.
Like your Son, Jesus Christ,
May we use our anger to heal instead of hurt.
Might we find our anger as motivation to do good,
To act justly and make change in this world.
Teach us to harness our emotions and redeem them from negativity.
Let us not lash out against others, but reach out beyond ourselves.
With your guidance, we can do all things.
Should we fail, fall short of this,
Lord, grant us your Grace.
Forgive us for our weakness.