Of Lava and Cows

The lava boiled up from my guts, burned through my chest, swirled and bubbled just below my vocal chords. My heart pounded willing the anger to stop before it erupted from my mouth.

Someone had just tried to offer me soothing words that seemed as empty as telling a grieving Atheist that their loved one is in a better place (Heaven) now.

I held back my burning fierceness, because if the words came out it would destroy those in its path and possibly cause irreparable damage.

Spewing hot lava…not good. 

Recently, after much journaling and a lot of honest retrospection, something so obvious yet well hidden into my psyche appeared to me. I was so shocked by my discovery that I exclaimed aloud, “Oh my gosh, I am letting my anger consume me.”

And then I thought on that for a while and released a landslide of emotions I didn’t want to confront.

Bit-by-bit, I started to uncover all my built-up anger. I knew it was a controlled thing simmering under the surface, yet only recently I could see it was beginning to kill me. And would start to destroy relationships.

At first I thought my anger only went back over the last five months—I presumed it all business related. But as I kept writing down everything that irked me, I uncovered hidden anger with a couple friends. I found it in the words of those “assuring me” the second mammogram would be clear. Just when I thought I was done, I found more anger from two years ago, then from a friend who twisted our relationship into things I didn’t want, and even more appeared from ten years ago. 

It was Pandora’s Box. I got fearful at the process and wanted to close the lid—but it wouldn’t fit back on. The only choice was to keep going. How far back could my anger reach? How much had I brushed under the carpet because it wasn’t professionally right to be angry? After all, I was told at the time these were trivial matters and others had it worse off than me. My feelings were invalidated. And this began my rage.

With bravery and a sick-and-twisted bit of curiosity, I kept digging. Like digging up a grave. What I found eight feet under was rotted and disgusting. The worms crawled and fed on me. I went back to my first feelings of real seething held-on-to-anger, all the way back to high school, coming in first place at a Lincoln–Douglas debate tournament. Initially I was numb, but slowly it moved into anger from no one being there to see me win. Irrational or not, I had counted that as “strike one”.

Oddly, in all my years, in all the people I placed anger on—God never showed up. I mean that I haven’t gotten angry at God. I wonder if this is a good or bad thing. Maybe the anger is yet to come. As if in a debate with myself—I argued the idea of why haven’t I ever blamed God for all the crap. After all, this seems to be something people like to do—so maybe I wasn’t being real with myself. But no matter which way I looked at situations I couldn’t find a way to blame God—instead I clearly saw how to blame people.

I’d started being more transparent with my husband about my anger (not all of it, but a good portion). In one of my more recent “debates” he stopped my examination and said—point blank without any tone of judgment, “Why do you think it is, that you get so mad at people who are just trying to make you feel better?”

I quickly rebutted, “Because they are candy coating everything—and it’s insensitive to the hurting. They take scripture out of context like some promise for me—or anyone hurting. They tell me it will be okay, but how dare they say that because they don’t know that it WILL be okay. They are NOT God, and they can’t tell me how it will work out. They are wrong to give people false hope by saying it’s going to all work out soon. I don’t know what type of hotline they have to God that tells them our situation will improve. And I think it’s absolutely irresponsible and a wrong response. These are people professing to be Christians and they give me some made up Christian-Pollyanna Rainbows, Unicorns, and Cotton-candy hype. In-fact my non-Christian friends have better and more real responses. At least two of my Christian friends are real and admit the whole thing sucks.  But all these others, and their responses – it needs to stop!”

Lava. Erupted. Spewed. It was ugly, raw, uncontrolled.

Thank God for my husband, as he said with kindness, “so even if their response was wrong, you fault them for trying to comfort you the only way they knew how?”

Oh. Wait. I shut my mouth and nodded at the “ah-ha” moment.

I started to respond, as he interjected, “people aren’t good with responses to pain, they say things to make others feel better.” I blurted out a sarcastic punchline, “…and they say things to make themselves feel better!”

He gave me “that look” with pause. And right there, a heartbeat later, I got it. I lacked grace and fueled angrier in reacting to my friends’ and acquaintance’s responses.

It was like seeing the cow in the parking lot. Let me explain. A famous attorney—famous for his anger—learned how to work through his anger with a simple analogy. Imagine circling a crowded parking lot. Just when you see a space, another driver races around you and takes it. Feeling rage is easy. But now imagine that it’s not a driver that stole your rightful place but rather a cow moseying into the spot. Rage never comes, instead you feel bemusement. Your spot is still gone—but the response is different. You still lost the parking spot…but you aren’t angry. What changed was your perspective.

Through a conversation with my husband, my perspective was changed.  I saw things in a different light. I saw where I lacked grace to those trying to support me the only way they knew how…even if it was a candy coated response. Like life flashing before my eyes, I thought about Jesus… in Gethsemane.  And how shallow His disciple’s responses must have been to His anguish. Did they not see the heaviness He wore at the Passover supper table. I wondered just how pissed off Jesus really was when He asked them to stay up and pray with Him in Gethsemane, only to find them asleep. I guess since we don’t see Jesus lashing out (too much) He must have seen the cow in the parking lot.

Well there it is. Unearthed anger—addressed—assessed—owned. For a moment the chip is off my shoulder; I can stare it in the face and choose the next best step. And in the process I’ll learn how to give a little more grace to tissue thin condolences, and possibly use it as a soft segue in teaching appropriate empathy. Maybe I’ll even write on that next week: what to say that’s appropriate and scripturally correct when your friend’s life sucks.

Copyright © 2009- 2011 Sherry Meneley . All Rights Reserved . soiledwings.com . sherrymeneley.com . soiled wings

14 thoughts on “Of Lava and Cows

  1. I find your weekly posts very challenging, and I really don’t know why I feel I need to respond to them so much, but I do. I have lots of tissue thin condolences I could use but I won’t becasue they won’t mean much. I do have two questions for you though to ponder. In the movie ‘What dreams may come’, there are two worlds. My question for you and maybe some of your readers is this: Which world are you living in? If you want to live in the other one what will you do to move yourself? Hard questions – you bet – because it’s your choice.

    • David, are you suggesting I’m living in hell? Or on earth and I haven’t gone to Heaven yet. The later is correct. To move into the other world (Heaven, not hell, because Jesus is my savior and I’m going home one day to finally hug Him) means God will allow something to happen to me to bring me into rest and eternal life.

      In short – sometimes life is (to over use the proverbial term) “hell” – but I’m here on earth to try and do a good thing for God’s glory, to be real to other believers and seekers alike, to be salt and light when and where I can.

      And while I’m on earth, I’ve had times of bounty and I’ve seen periods of intense trial after trial – BUT I hold to Romans 8:28 – there is a gift in all my trials and hardship – and dealing with my anger and trying to change my perspective to “cows” is an important part of my spiritual healing.

      So, what world am I living in? The very one God placed me in, and I’m doing my best to keep my head high and my faith solid.

  2. I get mad at the car and the cow. In fact I might just run into that cow and cook it for dinner! I get mad at God as well for creating or “allowing” (depending on your theology) the situations that cause me pain and the so called friends that stab me in the back along the way. I could use some counseling, but I’d probably get mad at him/her too! I have discovered that no one can make me angry, anger is something that was already in me and I choose when to have it and how it gets released. People are people and Forrest Gump was brilliant when he said, “You can’t fix stupid” and “Stupid is as stupid does.” Pearls of wisdom…it’s my choice!

    • I get that! Maybe a little beef jerky… ps: call me naive, but I just can’t wrap my head around “creating” pain – I like “allowing” pain, because then I can always blame people instead of God. Everytime I try to blame God, and trust me I’ve had some angry conversations with Him, it feels like sand in my hands – I can’t hold on to it. It’ always goes back to people and life… It rains on the stupid and less stupid alike. (Mt 5:45 taken from the SLM version)

  3. I love that your husband is perceptive and wasn’t afraid to be honest with you….We are all imperfect and are offering the only comfort we know how to give…which is (and always will be) imperfect. I don’t believe that well-meaning friends are just trying to make themselves feel better. They simply don’t know what else to say. Maybe “I’m sorry” is the best we can do.

    I must admit (nervously) that it is quite intimidating to me, and I’m sure to others, to read your blog each week and find out that something we’ve said or done is being critiqued in a weekly blog….Sometimes I read Soiled Wings just so I can see if I (or someone I care about) have accidentally said or done something for which I should apologize…..It makes me feel really insecure and a little hestitant to say anything…..

    • Ooooo, I’ve only ever called out ONE person, and not even by name or gender. And I recall you encouraging me to do so… maybe that was just a joke?

      Anyhoo, I have to write about my life, my walk of faith, in real open ways. Nothing ever goes on here without buckets of thought and time between writing and posting. I tend to put a lot of time between the writen post and the actual posting to allow settling, which leads to editing, and a softer or harder approach. And very often posts never even make it to Soiled Wings…because it wouldn’t serve a purpose. Most don’t even know that the vast majority of what is posted was writen over a month or more ago…

      So when a post does make it, it’s always because there is a lesson of growth to show that I honestly feel will help someone else. As is the case here: cows in parking lots. But it will always come at the cost of exposing myself – because we learn better and gasp meaning through real-life story rather than proverb. At anyrate, thanks for your courage and comment.

      ps: although it must be really nice when you see/or think you see yourself on here (aka: my “oh so wise friend”) in really good highly complimentary ways… as you 100% have been 😀

  4. Hello Sherry,

    From my perspective, in such situations, all words are shallow and all actions are deep. However, since most of our relationships are superficial relationships, where being physically attentive to our needs is not appropriate, words must suffice. So, I take them with a smile and let it go. But, if a person who is close to us and should be sensitive enough to offer us some form of comfort through action (washing our feet maybe?) only gives us a word or two… then we should let our anger out… at least a little. 😉

    Craig

  5. Craig…thank you so much. Your words ” all words are shallow and all actions are deep.” are eloquent and perfect. I absolutley agree. Next week in my follow up post about what to do when you friends life sucks I will be expressing this very important aspect. I just might quote you…cool?

  6. Once again—BEAUTIFUL! You are such a blessing, speaking from the heart. Do not be discouraged, my sister. I wish people would understand, this isn’t about them, to cause them harm or to gossip about what they said or did. I believe this is about a person showing their heart ( the good, the bad, and the ugly ), which if we would be honest with ourselves, we all have things we hide in our heart. Sherry is exposing her heart to us and showing us how to grow in Christ and giving us a glimpse of how God is changing her heart. There is a song called “LISTEN TO OUR HEARTS” and it is so touching, sometimes we can’t find the words to tell God what or how we are feeling, but He does listen to our hearts and for that I am very happy. Sherry, thank you for sharing yours with us. If I never meet you this side of Heaven, please look me up, I will be under a tree by the Crystal Sea, talking to my earthly Dad…

  7. Okay, I’m going to keep this short and sweet. I have a huge problem with telling others that everything is going to be alright for the simple reason that as my life has played out, much of it has sucked. Why? Because I don’t think I have GOTTEN yet! At the rate I’m going I don’t think I’m ever going to GET IT! But, that’s okay with me. Having what I consider a difficult path has made me a strong person, even through my weakest moments. I have learned to find solitude in those wiser than me. One of my greatest faults (I feel) is the inability to communicate to others that although I can’t begin to feel their pain I’m there for them for whatever they need. So what do I do? I close up tight like a clam and internalize my failure to say the “right thing”. My hope is that those who know me the best know that I am praying for them, as well as myself, that God will bring fourth change that will cause a miracle to be revealed. God Bless you and all your readers that share their inner most thoughts of truth, encouragement and sometimes even hurtful thoughts. They all provoke us to examine ourselves.

    • Glenda you have always been so wise in my eyes. When you have comforted me – you have said and not said all the right things. Maybe it takes deep sorrow to understand deep sorrow.

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