Have you ever been angry with God? I’m talking about that really gritty, dirty, I am so pissed off at you and the only thing that is going to make me feel better is to chew you up and spit you out kind of angry!? Have you ever been cognizant of that kind of anger toward God? I have.
I was mad like that on a Sunday morning in November of 2004. The numbness following my mom’s Cancer diagnosis was rapidly wearing off. I was drowning in the wound it left in its wake. More than once that week I found myself literally shaking my fist at God. The rain was coming down.
Why her? Why her when there was so much to live for? Why her when she was so good? She and my dad were on the verge of celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. My dad was just over a year from retirement. My mom, who never knew her own grandparents and *could*not*wait* to become a grandparent herself so that she could experience that kind relationship, now had 9 grandkids. The cruel irony was that the oldest was only 9 and the rest ranged from age 3 months to 7 years. Most of them would never remember her. My sister was not married and had never had any children. The list was long, there was just so much that she would miss!
Oh, I was angry! My straight-laced, “I don’t smoke, drink, or chew or go with boys that do,” church going, God following mother was dying, painfully, of Cancer? In the 1960s when many of her peers were listening to Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and The Doors while becoming full- fledged hippies, she was asking the neighbor lady for rides to church. Wasn’t this the same gal whose sister teased her by calling her the ‘polyester sister’? She didn’t even own a pair of blue jeans until she met my dad in 1979. She was that straight-laced!
On top of all of this I was really struggling to find a church that felt like “home” for me. I had grown up in church and had attended the same church for most of my childhood, but no longer felt it was the right fit for me. Feeling comfortable in a new denomination was challenging. My husband and my children were feeling at home in our new church but I was at odds with the main thing that made this new home feel different: The Liturgy.
Growing up in a church that was much less formal, this “Liturgy” thing sometimes seemed stiff and insincere. Why did they have a pre-planned calendar, why didn’t the pastor just preach on what he felt God inspired to preach about? While sermons at the church I grew up in were prepared in advance, prayers were freer flowing in nature. Every moment of the service wasn’t preplanned. The idea that the service could go ‘where the spirit led’ was not out of the ordinary. Even though it didn’t often happen, if a pastor felt the direction of the service needed to change that could easily happen. It was orderly, but not overly so, but to call it simple would not be accurate. There was no elaborate scripting, or what our new church called “Liturgy”. The spoken words were characteristically extemporaneous. In my mind the hurdle was Extemporaneous = sincere and somehow more inspired by God = Good, and Liturgical = insincere, stale, uninspired and untimely = Bad.
Entering this church on this particular day I’d had it and my anger was flaring to new heights. Not only was God not fair, God was insincere. What sort of “prepackaged” BS did this “Loving Father” have for me today? I was thankful for the lectionary script. It made it easier to fake it. I could participate without feeling and the barricade around my brokenness could remain intact. I took comfort and a certain amount of pleasure in knowing that the prepackaged lectionary was nearing the end of a 3 year Lectionary cycle. Nothing new here today, nothing that hadn’t been sitting on that preacher’s shelf for at least the last 3 long years.
Sitting there in the pew wallowing in my cynicism I was hardly listening as the Gospel Scripture from Matthew 5:43-48 was read. Blah, Blah, Blah, “…for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” The words hit me hard. I didn’t hear much after that. Like a stubborn child in the toy department who has just been told no, I was kicking and screaming. Like the loving parent who has just said no, God picked me up and with a gentle force, carried me away from what I so desperately wanted while I was throwing my tantrum. It wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination.
The floods came up. My hands balled to fists. My heart raced. I wanted to hang on to my anger. All of the scriptures and songs of promise that had been ingrained in me since birth like, “I will never leave you or forsake you,” (Hebrews 13:5) and, “Nothing can separate you from the love of God,” (Romans 8:35-39). They washed over me like a tidal wave. Grief came flooding out of me as I sat there in my seat. None of those familiar verses claimed fairness; instead all of them claimed faithfulness. The God of the universe, who is faithful and loves me entered my pain and reminded me that God wasn’t going anywhere. And all that from a moment in the lectionary… huh? Talk about rockin’ my world! After that day I was still angry, still bitter, still in such anguish, but I wasn’t alone and I knew this was not a punitive act on God’s part. It wasn’t a punishment.
I take comfort in knowing even Jesus grappled with these very human emotions. Fully God and yet fully man. I can’t even really wrap my brain around that. Jesus understood why I begged for this to not happen, why I was so very angry. Knowing He would be betrayed and brutally executed, my Bible says Jesus “fell on His face and prayed.” That seems to be on the level of pure desperation. Jesus begged, “Let this cup pass from me…” (Matthew 26:39) When Jesus was dying His extremely painful and brutal death perhaps He was angry or felt betrayed when He cried out in a loud voice, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”(Matthey 27:46)
Sometimes on a particularly tough day I still catch myself in a little wave of anger about what feels like the injustice of it all. When I see someone abuse their body over and over and live to enjoy another day, or I hear of a grandparent who basically ignores their grandchild, or I call my dad and he’s heating up a TV dinner and sitting in front of a Basketball game for the 3rd or 4th time that week I want to recoil and strike out at God. Yeah, those are the times I have to take a deep breath and remember that day in November 2004. The rain came down, the floods came up, and wise woman, who built her house on the Rock? Her house is still standing still.