“But anger truly felt at its center is the essential living flame of being fully alive and fully here, it is a quality to be followed to its source, to be prized, to be tended, and an invitation to finding a way to bring that source fully into the world through making the mind clearer and more generous, the heart more compassionate and the body larger and strong enough to hold it.” David Whyte
About three-and-a-half years later I am finishing up a counselor training certificate program in Seattle, Washington. I had received so much strength and validation from the Father over these years, but the orphan in me still showed up, and still received my contempt. I have operated under the assumption that, in order for my redemption to be complete, the orphan would have to be completely exiled. I was ashamed of him, and still not being kind to those young places. He was still embarrassing me sometimes, and when I didn’t give him a voice, he came through in irritability and anger.
I arrived in Seattle for our final weekend of training. During our first group, I told everybody that, though I feel pretty good right now, the spiritual warfare was thick, just like it always was before these sessions. I share with them about the vast anger that has arisen in the weeks prior; that I’d even kicked a hole in my bedroom wall on Easter Sunday. I guess I was hoping for some confirmation of the warfare, but instead they annoyingly wanted to press into the anger. One friend said “I’m glad you kicked a hole in the wall; you should be angry.” I didn’t exactly know what he meant (denial of my own abuse prevented it). My group leader then asked, “Do you see depression as anger?” I did, but didn’t really want to talk about it. It was much easier to blame it all on warfare. There was a lot of warfare, but there was definitely some home-grown anger in there too. But just like I’d been taught, I turned it inward; depression was always more comfortable to me than anger.
On the Saturday night before our last day together in Seattle, I decided to take a bath and relax a little. I got in the hotel room bathtub to read a book, but I couldn’t concentrate. I began thinking about the things Id been through, and the things said to me while I was struggling to find a place to fit in the world. All the things I wrote in part one of this blog, plus one particular Arkansas police officer came to mind; he told me what a dirt-bag I was after a suicide attempt (deriding one who no longer chooses to live is a wonderful strategy, DA!). I finished the bath early, and spent maybe 5 minutes writing. I just wrote how I honestly felt—things I was powerless to share aloud because I knew they would be met with shame and contempt. I just recklessly wrote them on a couple of pages in my notebook.
The next day I read it to my group, and it felt good; they validated my true voice, and I think there was even a “hell yes!” in there. It was a very emotional day for all of us; we had come so far, and trudged through so much together…and now it was over. We would finish the program with a celebration feast, and take communion together. I feel my heart sink even now as I think about our time here, and all that we’ve witnessed together. This is not a chapter in my life that I want to end—I want it to live and grow…
They finished the final session by asking people who wanted to, to stand up and share a little of their experience here through the last year. One of my group stood and shared how he got his heart for artistry back, another lady sang a beautiful song, that we all stood and joined. Several others shared amazingly beautiful stories; it was Holy. The other man in my group pointed to my notebook and said “man, you’ve got to read what you wrote last night.” I just laughed because I knew he had to be kidding. I mean to me, it was just an angry, profanity-filled rant, and this was a school of Theology. But I looked around the table at my friends, and their eyes were sincere as their heads shook “yes.” I trust them.
Dan (our teacher) said there was time for one more, and someone else stood up. I raised my arm (actually it was raised by my group leader), and Dan said “OK, two more.” I hate that I didn’t hear what was shared before I stood up, but I was in shock at the idea of saying anything in front of that many people, much less what I’d written. I stood up and took the microphone. I admitted, maybe for the first time out loud, that Id been abused. Then I gave a little back story of how this writing came about, as well as apologized for the offensiveness of it. I didn’t write this as poetry, but when I read it, it felt poetic. When I began to read, I was the orphan, the little boy, the teenager, and the man:
I f—ing hate Arkansas. I hate the country. I love the mountains, beach, and desert.
But I don’t give a sh*t about horses and cows. I grew up around cow-people, and didn’t like anything about it.
I f—ing hate country music. I don’t give a sh*t about hunting, the Razorbacks, or farm animals.
I’m tired of trying to keep from hurting the feelings of family members just by being myself.
I’m tired of trying to make them feel better. I’m tired of not putting my heart first, and not mattering.
I’m tired of being things for people. I’m tired of guilt trips and manipulation.
I’m tired of people telling me who I am, or can be. I’m tired of “family matters above all,” even truth.
I’m tired of the southern, self-righteous, religious bullshit. I mean…bless ’em, but f–k ’em.
I hate good manners, firm handshakes, creepy-ass false humility, and fake smiles.
I love the mountains, beach, and desert. I love things that move me to tears. I love beauty.
I love hot baths, war movies, comedies, and ice cream cones.
I love poetry, writing, hiking, and swimming. I love wiener-dogs, and rock music.
Redemption doesn’t come by suppressing the orphan, and certainly not by joining in his abuse; it comes by blessing him, and giving him a voice. His anger was Holy. It is right to rail against oppression, injustice, and evil—with an invitation to repentance—but also with a sharp sword. Evil will always try to shame you into submission. I was the one afraid of what the “good” people might think of my true voice, but there the orphan stood, strong in his vulnerability, and in his glory. It was beautiful. I immediately went to hug the man who encouraged me to read it, and then I noticed that I wasn’t standing alone; everybody was on their feet applauding. I will never forget that feeling–it felt like redemption–it felt like getting my voice back after all these years.