We are all born angry. It is the first emotion, and if we are honest, the most infinitely rational.
We wail at the injustice of life. We know, at our most intuitive level, that what we have just exited was as good as it gets. Life on the terrestrial plane is now pain and suffering. We meet it with fists clenched and eyes screwed shut.
What tools are we given to deal with Life, that ravenous beast that devours us bit by bit through the years? We have a tangle of synaptic activity seated between our ears, an intricate web of neurons and receptors to attempt to make sense of the cacophony. Three sections govern the whole: fore, mid, hind. Sometimes they orchestrate beautifully. Sometimes it’s a three-ring circus and the ringmaster’s gone missing, making passionate love to the trapeze artist behind the fat lady’s wagon.
Emotions are the freak show, greeting us as we grow. What terrifying things they are. Fear consumes us, jealousy engulfs us, sorrow drowns us. The happy feelings are no less overwhelming. Exhausting, all of them. At two years of age, they cannot be contained within the confines of our frame and we find ourselves shrieking, flinging ourselves on the floor either in rapture or rage. The emotions writhe and flail and we must learn to reel them in like deep sea fishermen on the high seas, battling 1,000 lb marlin. As we fight to master them, we also stand in awe of their amazing strength. Standing on the cusp of control we fear that, at any moment, they will sail through the air and skewer us through the heart.
It happens. Oh yes; you can see the scars if you know where to look.
Firing neurotransmitters at a terrific rate, we lurch through our days. The cacophony becomes the background noise we cannot live without. Somehow, we compartmentalize, theorize, fantasize, and rationalize enough to function.
Yet, all the while, the anger remains.
For those with charmed lives, with rosy outlooks, with serotonin and dopamine in abundance, with supportive families and loving counselors, with higher education and money aplenty, with robust good health and full larders, it lies dormant, a sleeping giant that needs only the right nudge to bring it roaring to life.
For the rest of us, it is the largest marlin, the one with the sharpest bill, and the best aim.
We are angry at being here, angry at being dumped at overnight camp without even being asked if we wanted to go. There are bullies here, and bugs that sting and animals that maul and wound. Some people have received tents with insulated walls and reinforced bindings to keep out the rain while others’ are in tatters, barely serviceable. Letters from dad are few and far between and sometimes unintelligible. We beg to be allowed to come home but we are given the pat answer: Stay, it’s good for you. It builds character.
There is a question that needs to be asked and yet we fear to ask it. It is anathema; we have been taught to never verbalize it, as though by speaking the words we will forever bar the gates of heaven and be denied entrance forever. Our hearts burst with the emotion of it, but it sticks in our lungs and strangles us. Yet I will ask it.
Can we forgive God?
Forgiveness is huge in Christian circles; it is everywhere preached. We sin, we need forgiveness. We are born in error and maleficence. Yet we acknowledge that God created us; it is undeniably contradictory. He set us here, yet we sin. We cannot help it, it is our nature. We need His power to overcome, so we pray for it and wait upon it, helpless without Him while formed by Him. The deck is stacked, the dice are loaded, the situation is intolerable.
We are expected to trust, and yet we fear. Because this place, it is fearful. And this is the crux. Fear and Suspicion are Anger’s sire and dam. If we suspect that God is out to get us, that the Creator of All is little more than an all-powerful sadist, what is left?
At the end of life, when we look back over the length and breadth of it, perhaps we will say Ah! I see what you did there, God. You did indeed know best. How foolish I was to doubt you! Perhaps we will shake our heads at our lack of trust and the anger that accompanied it; we will wonder at the time we wasted in cringing and covering our heads, awaiting the next blow.
But until that day, can we forgive God, as a child at camp forgives the parent that dropped him there? Can we believe that God is big enough to handle our anger, as any good human parent waits for the tantrum to end without taking it personally? Or is our God so small that we assign Him all the same frailties that only the worst parents have: a love of punishment, a delight in condemnation, a relish for inflicting welts? Can we endure until that better day comes when the fog lifts and joy attends?
Can we just speak it aloud? I forgive you God. I forgive you for putting me here, where everything hurts and nothing makes sense. I forgive you for giving me limited vision and few facts. I forgive you for expecting me to believe without seeing, to trust in spite of evidence, to cling to some nebulous future joy. I forgive you for holding all the cards while still expecting me to play.
If we can forgive God–no matter how much Good Christian Folks condemn us for even voicing such blasphemy–then we can acknowledge that He is not obligated to reveal His every purpose to us. If we can unclench our fists enough to allow Him to pour out a little grace into them, then we can–I do believe this with all my heart–we can let go of the anger and accept that He is, as He insists, made entirely of Love.
And if we can believe that He is Love, we can believe that there is a purpose to our being here at camp in the first place. We can get on with the business of camping. We can un-screw our eyelids and allow some light to shine in and illuminate what is dark. We can find Trust, that most elusive of gifts, and cling to it instead.