Let me introduce you to my friend, Michael Blewett. He’s an amazing Episcopal priest who serves in Bowling Green, Kentucky at Christ Episcopal Church. He’s a passionate foodie, a gifted communicator, and a great writer. I’m a fan of his blog at Under God’s Fingernails.
One of the most-asked questions I’ve encountered as a priest goes something like, “Is it OK to be angry with God?” The answer is, of course, “Yes.” The problem is that most people are really angry at God rather than with God, and there can be quite a difference between the two.
When I am angry at God, I tend to cut off or at least “suspend” my communication with God. Prayer seems all but impossible, and worship is almost unthinkable. If I follow the trajectory of that non-relationship, I’m left with nothing but my own anger, which is pretty poor company.
When people ask the question about being angry with/at God, I suspect that, deep down, they’re really asking, “How do I go about expressing my anger with God?” That’s another question entirely, and one very well worth asking.
- The first thing is to remember that you are not the first person to be angry with God, and you won’t be the last.
- Second is to remember the Psalms. The Psalms can serve as a model for expressing everything from ecstasy to antipathy, all the while remaining in conversation with God.
- Thirdly, remember to leave some space after your venting and fuming for listening, for God is far more talkative than we are aware.
And what can we expect to hear? That brings me to the two lions.
One of my favorite preachers, Barbara Brown Taylor, engages the story of Job in her sermon collection Home by Another Way. When Job complains to God and God finally answers, it’s a confrontation full of awe and trembling. Taylor writes, “It was as if a flea had insisted that the lion upon which it was riding stop, stop right now, and explain why the ride was so bumpy and hot.” She goes on to say that the flea roared and roared as loud as it could, never expecting to be heard, much less answered.
But one day, the lion turned around and roared right back. The flea saw itself reflected in both golden eyes at once. Never mind what the lion said. The lion turned around; the lion roared. And that was enough for the rest of the journey. Sometimes we get God’s roar; sometimes we get something else.
In C. S. Lewis’ book, The Magician’s Nephew, a boy named Digory finds himself face-to-face with Aslan, the great lion (and Christ-figure). Digory’s mother is very ill and, ever since he had heard of the great Aslan, wondered if there was something Aslan could give him that would cure his mother and make things the way they used to be. Until that moment in the meeting, Digory had been looking down a Aslan’s great, clawed paws. But when Digory lifted his eyes to look into Aslan’s face, he saw something that surprised him more than anything in his life:
“For the tawny face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion’s eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory’s own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his Mother than he was himself.”
Sometimes we get the roar; sometimes we get the tears. But we get nothing unless we stay in relationship.