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Permission to be angry?

Photo by sydney Rae on Unsplash

When I imagine my anger, I imagine myself in fatigues, right hand snapped to attention. As I stand there, knees slightly bent, back ramrod straight, the Almighty is walking down the line, observing us each.

When God comes to me finally, I summon the courage to squeak, “Permission to be angry, God?”

Can I be this angry and keep my place in this company, Lord?

Is this allowed?

That’s as far as I allow my imagination to go. I don’t dare imagine God’s answer, be it a “yes” or a Buddhist push towards embracing emptiness and a deeper dive into meditation. In the middle of my own battle with anger, I wonder if God would have the audacity to tell me to breathe while I’m mid-freak out, pounding on the horn because yet another Tesla has cut me off in Austin, Texas, traffic.

Could I even hear God telling me to breathe without lashing out further?

When I read the Bible, I find relief at the stories I can relate to. Oh, thank God, Jesus threw things across the room too. Oh, thank God, David made a scene walking through the city, just like I did on Bourbon Street. Oh, thank God, Hagar was bullied and ran away. Oh, thank God, Thomas doubted.

My biblical study is an auditory chorus of me whispering, “Oh, thank God,” over and over again. My eyes are on the text, but my imagination is racing between the stories of the Bible and the stories of my own life.

There is no greater tie between the Bible and my soul than the stories with angry characters and the verses relating to anger.

The Bible is a masterclass in leadership, should we choose to read it that way. If you’re like me, you’ve read all those books on leadership that line the shelves at Barnes & Noble or read presidential autobiographies of their presidencies and lives to glean insight and wisdom for your own journey ahead.

It’s one thing to read about great leaders. It’s another thing to work under one.

I once had a life-changing boss. This boss was made of the stuff these leadership books bullet-pointed in their indexes. Emotional maturity: check. Fair: check. Good listener: check. Emotionally stable: check.

I only saw this boss truly angry once over an injustice one of his employees had gone through outside of the place of work. What made this boss so worth emulating was that we all knew he was capable of anger, but we understood that he only exercised the power of his anger to make positive changes in the world around him.

He harnessed his anger for good, and only in rare and extraordinary cases, but when his anger was released, boy was it a sight to behold. And he used his anger to create necessary change.

As leaders in the PC(USA), we’re called to hold our anger and release it responsibly. The leaders who accept the presence of their anger have great potential in how they minister and respond to social injustices in their community.

The power of being slow to anger and showing anger with care and in balanced measured means you can hold space for the emotions of those around you without threatening to topple anyone over.

I wonder though, what it would look like if we each were able to harness our anger like a laser pointer and work toward eradicating one major but pinpointed problem facing our congregations and ministries today? And what would that problem be?

Recently, I have wondered what it would look like for me to push my laser pointer at the invisible walls that seemed to have built up around us these past two years. I want to harness my anger at my own pandemic-fueled loneliness to ensure others don’t have to feel that same pain. Can I push my anger into programming? Can I push my anger into dialing phone numbers and reaching out to people around me? Can I push my anger into opening doors? Can I push my anger towards rebuilding my entire life on the sure foundation of Christ?

What would your work look like if you asked God, “Permission to be angry?” And God said, Permission granted”?