A year's worth of anger, fear, sadness, hurt, inadequacies, let downs, insecurities had been stockpiled in a place out of my reach. I did it for my own good, stored it away, because I knew what I had to do. What I had to do and how to get it done, and I knew... I knew better than to let anything else get in the way.
This week, a chapter closed. A new one began and I step forward with as much trepidation and uncertainty as one might begin any new journey. I have no map, no directions -- and worst of all, no one clued me into my destination. I feel, unfortunately, quite lost. Safe. But lost.
And not to my surprise, these new feelings, this new path, reached high and deep and long and found the place where I kept it all. There, on the shelf in the back of my mind. Smelling like so much life and of so much struggle and of all kinds of secrets. Pretending I was capable, ready, to deal with it all, it came tumbling down. Piled at my feet. Mounding beside me, hot and sticky and not all bad -- but all very dangerous.
The knot grew in my chest, the tears burned behind my eyes. Sadness welled there, and anxiety pushed at my armpits. As if it all, all this life, was trying to find some way to escape me. I would not let it, for whatever reason. And I shake my head, wondering at my ability to cling to that which is no longer of use to me.
I was angry.
I didn't use to be angry. I used to be scared and sad and remorseful and all those things you feel when you think it's all your fault. Those things you feel when the world, when the church, has put the scarlet letter on your coat and every day conversation begins with subtle mentioning of your shortcomings.
I am able to stand here now and say a host of things I never was able to say before. Some of you have waited for the day that I'd agree with you -- the past few years have been laden with mistakes and failures and I, myself, am full of character flaws.
And it's not that I agree. But you're right -- in the sense we have to understand exactly where things started falling apart, to be able to ever begin putting it back together. It's not that I agree, because I truly believe our culture -- especially the church, the helping culture -- has taught us that freedom is in admitting our flaws. Be honest, repent, admit, they quip. Although scripture does say "if we confess our sins He is faithful and just", it seems like most things the church has turned this practice into something it was never intended to be.
But I have grown. In ways I was promised and in ways I'd never anticipated. And much like the stages of grieving, I got there. To an angry place. Past the sad place, the lonely place, the insecure place. Straight to the top. To the angry place.
I don't like the angry place. I never stay there long. It's hot and bothersome and I can't see straight up there. I think, perhaps, I can't breathe properly up there either. Because I get dizzy. "Seeing red" was a term they coined about me. So I race to the top, have my moment of hating the world and everything in it and say lots of words, very quickly, that I earnestly mean but shouldn't have said.
Then I am done. Back down the mountain. I don't like staying there at the top -- I don't like being angry. I dislike it so, I refuse to let myself feel anger for too long. Maybe I'm not really a forgiving person, since my motive for forgiving is often selfish. But at the end of the day, it is just true. I don't like the angry place.
But I was angry.
And I was pumping gas. And words were spewing and colors were blurring. I was staying too long there, at the top. But I could not find my way down.
Too many unkind words. Too many accusations. Too many consequences. Too many implications. Too much advice. Too many opinions. Too much rejection.
It had all gotten me here. And I couldn't find my way out.
This weekend I am watching a little boy we call Bear. Judah will look like him in two years and that baffles me. I have known Bear since before he could walk and there's a special place in my heart for this small little boy. His mom is a single mom too, and we have vowed from day one to help each other out. That's what we do -- look out for each other.
This weekend, she was the one who needed help. So I offered. And for the past two days, I've been a mommy to two. Judah's had a big brother and my conversations have revolved around what color Cheez-Its are and when it's time to go to the potty. Where are your eyes, Bear? What sound does a dinosaur make?
I live on the second story of an apartment complex. With all of our stuff in my arms, including Judah and his carrier, Bear and I walked up to the apartment building and then inside. I started climbing the stairs and turned around and there stood Bear, at the bottom of the steps. He looked up at me with the big brown eyes of someone who is scared, a little person in a big, new place.
"Help?" He whispered, staring at the steep, carpeted staircase.
I had forgotten he was little.
I had forgotten that he was little and needed help still.
I walked back down the steps and Bear grabbed my free pinky finger and we took the staircase one step at a time until we reached the top.
I was angry.
The gasp pump filled my tank and I replaced the nozzle and walked inside the Speedway to buy coffee.
And somewhere, between the pump and the door, I asked for help.
Plain and simple. It was cold and my hands smelled like gasoline and I was still seeing colors every time I took a breath. I was still hurt in such a deep way that it didn't cause me pain anymore, it just kept me there, at the top in the place I didn't want to stay.
And somewhere, between the pump and the door, I just whispered "I don't want to be angry anymore."
I took a deep breath and January filled my lungs and I breathed out -- and maybe that's when it happened.
I'll never know. Not for certain anyway. Whether it was my own will or the advocate, the Spirit, who breathed a sigh of relief and petitioned for me. "She just asked for help! I heard her! Not in so many words, but yes, I know my Anna and that was it. That was what we've been waiting for, Father. She asked, let's help her."
Because by the time I got back to my car, the anger was gone.
And I was walking serenely back down the mountain, back to where I wanted to be.
"Help" is such a scary word. It means we cannot do this thing, whatever it is, on our own. The word interprets inability as inadequate.
But would you ever look at a child who can't climb the stairs on his own and call him inadequate? He is incapable. He cannot do this big, steep, scary thing on his own. And he told you so. Because he knows. He knows he can't. He told you, because he needs help. This, this act of young bravery, this act of honesty, that one small word that the world teaches grownups we can't use... is all confession ever was intended to be.
Help, we should cry. Every time the sorrow and the sin and the hurt and the hatred has tried to bury us alive. Help, we should cry. Every time we get to the place we hate and cannot find our way back down.
Help. Not in our inadequacies, but in our inabilities. Help, we cry, not asking for judgement or to be reprimanded or to be isolated. But we cry help because this thing, this thing we need to do, we cannot do on our own.
Sometimes, though you may not want to admit the demons are real, we are plagued by them. We are attacked by them. The voice, sounding so much like our own, like our fathers, like that boy you loved, breathing that fear and anger and hurt into your lungs.
Sometimes, their literal or metaphorical tactics are to cover our ears and make us think we are battling this alone. That the pile of hurts and memories and smelly stuff now laying at your feet, is a pile you have to sort through alone.
Or that staircase you have to climb, that steep staircase, is one you have to climb by yourself.
My friend, it is not.
And my prayer is that we would grow to be a community, we'd find ourselves living in a world, where it is not just the young who are willing to whisper "help". We'd find ourselves living in a world, a community, where we respond to the request, the confession, the plea, with nothing but grace and a free pinky.