In my most recent article in the Epistle, I wrote about my plans to drive up to Nebraska over the weekend and visit my grandmother for her one-hundredth birthday. Well, the trip went smooth, we had a pleasant visit with my grandmother, and there was a bit of a family reunion at her birthday party. It was a good trip, but as I wrote in my article, being in that town, with those people, in their houses, brings back a flood of memories, and not all of them are pleasant.
It was there, after all, that twenty-five years ago I learned that my father had taken his own life.
So, as we prepare to talk about forgiveness and letting go of unresolved anger this coming Sunday, I cannot help but process the concept through the lens of my family’s struggle with my father’s death. Each person in my family responded to this tragedy in their own way, but I imagine that every one of us was angry in some capacity. Angry at my father for abandoning us. At God for letting such a thing happen. At each other for how we were or weren’t coping.
Needless to say, just in regards to this one situation, I have had to deal with anger in a number of ways. Some of it was easy to let go of, but some of it festered for years and years, and has left lasting repercussions in my life and relationships.I did, however, learn quite a bit about one particular type of anger. Unresolved anger. You see, I will never have the chance to resolve my issues with my father. The anger I felt toward him and what he did could not and cannot ever be resolved because he is not here anymore. So, I can tell you first hand, that letting go of unresolved anger is not easy. In fact, even though I have since forgiven my father, there are still times that my anger toward him creeps back up.
Anger is seductive. Sometimes we don’t realize how angry we are because it can actually feel good to be angry. Anger has a way of making us want to keep it around. And when we hold on to anger and don’t deal with it properly, it becomes destructive. It eats away at us and can dominate our lives. Anger does not just go away, and if we think it has, it is probably coming out in other, inappropriate ways. That is why it is so important to acknowledge our anger and learn to cope with it in appropriate ways.
If you can find a resolution, please do. I wish I could sit down with my father and say all of the things I never got to say. But if you cannot, then maybe the time has come to let it go. We cannot hold on to our anger forever, and we are not called to. We are called to acknowledge our anger and give it to God.
Letting go of unresolved anger is not easy, believe me. But we do not have to do it alone. We can work on this together. We can encourage one another to let go of our anger and to move on. We can sow seeds of peace and love in the life of this church and community. Most importantly, we can trust God to give us the grace to forgive, the peace to move on, and the strength to love.