Just saying those words out loud made me hold my breath. Would I bring down the fabled wrath for having said that? But it was true – it was the most honest statement I’d ever made to God since I’d started trying to pray. I was really angry – for a lot of reasons. But I had been somehow conditioned that you don’t talk honestly to those you have a problem with – so the same should logically apply to God.
I knew something was really wrong in my life. I had been plagued by problems for years, problems I couldn’t pin down as to origin. I had even tried to talk about that as a prayer, many years before. When I was about 21, there was a Sunday evening service at the church I attended, and at one point in the service, they would dim the lights, and people were invited to come down to the altar rail, kneel and pray. One time my prayer had gone something like “Dear God, I don’t know if You’re really up there, and if You’re really listening, but if You are, I know there’s something terribly wrong with my life. I seem to hurt deep down inside, and I don’t know where it’s coming from. Please help me God.” I didn’t seem to get an answer at the time, and for a long time afterward.
But it was just after Christmas in 1987, and my Dad had just died, at a time when the problems I had been struggling with had escalated. It felt like my whole world was spinning out of control. I was 37 years old, and my anger at God had already started to surface. In anger I had torn up and shredded a lot of Bible study notes, frustrated at the seeming lack of answers in all that study I had done. Then I got the phone call – come home; Dad is dying. I had returned to my parents house, had been there when my Dad died, delivered the eulogy at his funeral. It had been a hugely emotional time, and I was still reeling from it.
Now, a month later, the anger was back, and boiling. I was willing to risk all sorts of possible bad things to be honest with what I was feeling, and just say – flat out – how angry I was at God, and at the situation. Having stated my anger, and not been struck down by a bolt of lightning, I sat down and started writing what I was angry about.
I had recently started narrowing down where all the issues were coming from. I had remembered several ugly incidents with my Dad when I was a teenager. First my Dad had shamed poetry that I had written for a school literary magazine, told me it was worthless and I’d never amount to anything. It was a horrible experience, and it felt like a light went out in my soul when my writing was taken away from me by being told it was worthless. The next thing I had remembered was arguing with my Dad over being able to wear my hair like the Beatles. He was a former Marine, and refused to allow it. Then late at night he came into my room and beat me up, telling me not to talk back to him. I had a feeling there may have been more – the evidence pointed that way – but I didn’t know how to root out whatever still might be underneath.
Then there was the horrible hurt I was feeling over my Dad dying. Our relationship had been strained for a number of years, but recently we had found a new supportiveness and peace between us. And then he died. It wasn’t fair!
So it came back to “Dear God, I am angry with you!” I knew I couldn’t keep carrying that anger, so I took a risky step. I set up a meeting with a minister at my church, to admit before a man of God about my anger. Wow – now that felt risky! But it also felt necessary. I had watched as my Dad denied his anger and refused to deal with it for many years. He had suffered numerous health problems, and had died in his late 50s. I had been watching his behavior and expecting his early death for several years, and knew – somehow I just knew – that if I didn’t deal with my own anger, I would end up going down the same path.
I met with the minister the next day. I shared with him what I had written, and the things I was angry about. I held my breath, expecting some dread penance for irreverence. Instead, the minister confirmed that many people felt things like I was feeling, and had experienced deep anger at God. It just wasn’t supported at church to talk about that, so everyone put on what I called the “happy Christian game face” and didn’t talk about things like anger at God. He said I had opened the lines of communication with God in a whole new way, and God would honor that honesty. He told me it took great courage for me to share what I did, and that it would only help my healing process. Then the minister said something very interesting – he said not to be surprised if other things continued to be revealed to me. He was right!
Several weeks later, I found the deep source of the issues that had plagued me. A very deep and violent incident with my Dad when I was seventeen, while he was drunk. I kept getting clues that something had happened, followed them, and was led to have this incident revealed. It was a horrible event to remember, and I knew it would take a long time to fully work through the effects. But – there was also a tremendous sense of relief. I now knew why my world had been so skewed, and in the big picture, things made a whole lot more sense.
So saying I was angry at God, being honest in that way, had led to a huge healing process. Not eternal punishment, chastisement or condemnation. I still had some of those teachings stuck in my soul, and it took a while to release those old beliefs and realize that God really did want the best for me.
Then the question. Did God hear my plea down at the altar rail when I was 21? Were things revealed to me at a time and in a way that I could handle knowing the truth? It sure seemed like it! I know I couldn’t have handled knowing about the violence when I was 21. It came out as gently as it could given how horrific the abuse had been.
“Dear God. Thank You for revealing this incident with my Dad at a time when I could handle it. Thank You for being so loving toward me.”
Quite a different prayer than the earlier one. But they felt connected – the angry prayer led to the thankful prayer. I do believe that.
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