I had mostly succeeded at scrubbing my vocabulary of curse words when my oldest child became sentient, but lately they’ve crept back into my head. And also my speech.
Apparently dropping an F-bomb here or there releases endorphins, which is probably why these words keep rising to my lips unbidden. There is a serious lack of endorphins in my house right now.
I have an 8-month-old who never wants to be put down and a 3-year-old who can’t understand why he can’t go to school — or anywhere else for that matter — or see his friends for the indefinite future.
One day, feeling particularly gloomy, I went to buy special drinks for all of us. A latté for me, a chai for Taylor, and a hot chocolate for Jackson. We all needed a pick-me-up. On the way home, I got distracted by the baby screaming and let go of the drink carrier at exactly the wrong moment. It tipped, and every cup spilled and completely emptied its contents onto my floorboards.
I screamed. I stomped. Then I sat on the floor and cried next to my baby, who was also crying because I had put her down.
It was 8:15 a.m.
As a woman raised in the Bible belt, I don’t know what to do with this kind of anger. It doesn’t feel very spiritual. In fact, for much of my early life I just thought that I wasn’t someone who got very angry.
“Oh, anger’s not really my struggle,” I would say. “I have plenty of other neuroses.”
But since the coronavirus has quarantined me to my house, I’ve discovered an untapped well of rage.
I realized later that it wasn’t really about the coffee. I’m angry that I’ve been robbed of my child-free time. I feel angry every time I see my highly social son collapse in tears because he’s lonely and bored. I’m angry at the failure of leadership that’s made our crisis the worst in the world. I’m angry that there’s a mass pauper’s grave in New York for the unclaimed bodies of coronavirus victims.
As a thoroughly churched child, I’ve sat through hundreds of sermons in my life. But I don’t remember hearing my pastors get angry. I remember a lot of emotional appeals to spend more time with Jesus. A lot of reminders of God’s deep and abiding love. But I don’t remember ever feeling permission to get angry. Or better yet, a call to anger. Which is, of course, a call to action.
But the Bible is full of anger. The Old Testament God, of course, rages against his own people, against foreign tribes, against idolatry. His anger smolders on the page. It is quick and complete.
Even in the New Testament, with Jesus’s quick forgiveness and gentle spirit, we see flashes of this rage. Sometimes you have to turn over the tables.
I recently listened to a lecture called awakening through anger. Have I been asleep most of my life?
The speaker said that anger arises when we are blocked from meeting our needs, or when we see someone else blocked from meeting theirs. We can get angry on the behalf of another.
But there’s something no one tells you about anger: It’s the juice. Anger has energy and power in it. You shouldn’t let it hijack you, yes. But properly directed, anger catalyzes change.
Sometimes we need to be awakened.
But instead of letting your frustration disperse around your house, ricocheting off your spouse and kids, take action. Ask God how to use your anger to advocate for better.
Maybe it’s too late, you say. The virus is already here.
Sure. Then fight for better benefits for people on the frontlines. Do you pick up your groceries curbside? Yes? Then make sure the grocery store you support is providing healthcare and paid sick leave for their employees.
Most of them receive no such benefit.
That should make you angry. It should motivate you to get off the couch and call your senators. It should motivate you to phone bank for tat new candidates who won’t bungle their response to the largest pandemic of the 21st century.
The world needs your voice.
You know who else was angry? The prophets. Read through these books of the Bible, and you’ll find these men spewing moral outrage all over the page. They were angry at societies who ignored God and ignored the needy — which, the Bible tells us, is one and the same.
They were furious, and they weren’t messing around.
Anger wakes us up to injustice, to the harming of others and to the earth. Don’t push it down. Suppressing your anger wastes energy, like holding a beach ball under water. But releasing it frees you to affect change.
I believe that you, too, have a prophetic voice that this world desperately needs. Let’s hear it.