Monday, September 12, 2011

changing channels

[here's this post's soundtrack, in case you want to listen: make me a channel of your peace.]

 "Be angry and do not sin," says ephesians 4:26. in the last twenty-four hours or so, i've been furiously wrangling with what that could possibly mean. righteous anger: what does that actually look like? aside from turning over the tables in the sanctuary, did Jesus demonstrate it for us? what tables in what sanctuary would i turn over, anyhow?

i have thought of people i could ask for advice. i spent my sleepless night last night (the joys of teething--not mine, of course) composing emails i would write this morning to people i thought could help me figure it out. circumstances are such for me right now that anger is one appropriate emotion among many, i know that. but to be angry without sinning? i needed some help.

then just this morning, as i rocked my angrily teething baby, i came to the end of myself. (why it always takes me so long to get there i'll never understand; it's the best place to be, always and always. why can't i remember that?) as i rocked and patted, rocked and patted, i finally remembered who the right One to ask the question was, the One who issued the command in the first place: how can i be angry without sinning?

[an aside here: if you know me, or if you don't know me but have read this blog very long, you'll know that i'm not the i-hear-from-God type. i don't hear His voice audibly daily; i'm not regularly given life-clarifying visions. i can count on one hand the number of times those things have happened to me. which has nothing to say about God and everything to say about me, i'm sure: if only i sought those things more often, i do not doubt that He would be gracious to answer. but i digress.]

so i asked. silenty, as i rocked my poor hurting baby to the sound of the ocean, i cried out: how do i do it? immediately, i was singing:

make me a channel of your peace.
where there is hatred let me bring your love.
where there is injury, your pardon, Lord
and where there's doubt, true faith in you.

oh, Master, grant that I may never seek
so much to be consoled as to console
to be understood as to understand
to be loved as to love with all my soul.

make me a channel of your peace
where there's despair in life, let me bring hope
where there is darkness, only light
and where there's sadness, ever joy.

make me a channel of your peace
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned
in giving to all men that we receive
and in dying that we're born to eternal life.

except i could only really remember the one line: make me a channel of your peace. and i was crying, too, immediately. as the silent tears rolled down my face and the silent song sang itself in my heart, part of me was crying out, "are you kidding me, God? i asked for righteousness in my anger! you have got to be joking. that's not what this is about AT ALL!"

it's a good thing God isn't limited by what i ask for. i am reminded of a line from bird by bird, by anne lamott, which i've coincidentally (ha!) been rereading recently: "You can safely assume you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do." hmph. i suppose, then, that this God who was singing to me was the real One, not the one i hoped to create to answer the question that i had first thought to ask everyone else but Him. a channel of His peace. hmph.

the tears kept falling. at which point, i became concerned about the angrily teething baby on whom they were no doubt raining...but when i remembered to look down at her on my lap, i discovered that she had fallen asleep. peaceful, pacifier-less, painless sleep. make me a channel of Your peace.

is my anger justified? i do not doubt it. but perhaps my call is to something bigger than justified anger. (shouldn't we all hope for better, after all?) i am reminded of the woman in proverbs 31: "Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue...a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." what is it, after all, that my family needs from me most of all: righteous anger? or strength, dignity, wisdom, kindness, God's peace? surely all have their place, but as i looked on my peaceful, no-longer-angrily teething, sleeping baby, i realized that peace was not only what she needed but what i needed to seek, too: release from the painful anger so i can find rest. and more than anything, i need to be a channel of that peace for my family.

so although i hadn't even gotten through this post before my sweet girl was awake and angrily teething again or before the source of my own anger had once again reared its head, i am listening and actively seeking to change the channel. make me a channel of Your peace, Lord.

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