I ran to the closet and hid. It was my own Adam and Eve moment. I fled, naked and ashamed, and I hid.
I was 22 and knew I would soon be moving out of state, and I wanted to do something memorable with my younger sister. Our relationship was rocky at the time, and she blew me off. My hurt turned into boiling anger, and I lashed out at her verbally. I slammed doors and jumped up and down. Yelling until my voice was hoarse, and sobbing until I was reduced to a snot-nosed mess. My overreaction shocked us both, and we just stared at each other. I turned and ran to my closet.
I sought out the darkness because it felt as if the only thing that could comfort me. But shame found me in the dark recesses of my hiding spot.
I am just like him, I thought. And this thought broke me. My tears began again in earnest. I had carefully constructed my fledgling adult life to be free of thoughts and emotions connected with my father, and I strove to be the complete opposite of him – domineering, angry and abusive. I told myself (and others) that I had forgiven my father. I thought all I needed was to say I forgave him. And in a matter of five minutes, I had failed.
My carefully constructed world shattered around my feet. I was feeling with a vengeance, and I was just like him. My emotions vacillated between anger and shame, and it all just felt like too much. I was staring up the side of a prison of my own making, where feeling anything was wrong. I was bound to fail at some point.
But God met me there in my self-imposed darkness. He called out to me. I buried my head deeper, I couldn’t face the God I had been attempting to show I was perfect. But He kept calling.
Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.” Psalm 139:7-12 (ESV)
I understood God’s love in a new way that day. In my own anger, I saw my own need to be forgiven, and in the arms of Jesus outstretched on the cross, I knew how much I needed Him. I was a ticking time bomb thinking I could just “be okay” because I willed it to be so.
I began to feel for the first time. And I needed to feel the weight of anger against my father, and the weight of my own failures to move forward. He didn’t ask for my forgiveness. Maybe he didn’t feel he needed my forgiveness. What he felt or needed didn’t really matter. I had to forgive for my own soul’s health. I needed to forgive him for my own healing.
As Christians, we can dismiss anger as a terrible sin, but we all have feelings and emotions. God created us with these complex emotions. And I learned in the closet that day, my anger over the abuse was not wrong. But pretending or sweeping my emotions away only hurt me more.Anger can be good. When we examine our emotions it can lead us to a place of healing.Click To Tweet
Forgiveness grew out of my own failures and my ability to be angry about what had been done to me, to my family. It was a starting point, not a singular moment of miraculous healing, and it defined my trajectory. Forgiveness is a hard and long climb, and there are still moments where I have to keep choosing to forgive. When tragedy strikes, abuse occurs, accidents happen, and we feel out of control, we always have a choice in how we respond and caring for the health of our souls.