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What are the passions?
"The passions are the feelings, the emotions or the movement of the sensible appetite--natural components of human psychology--which incline a person to act or not act in view of what is perceived as good or evil. The principle passions are love and hatred, desire and fear, joy, sadness, and anger."
(Compendium CCC, 370. Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2006) The Compendioum's source on this topic is the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas.
Part 3 of All I Want For Christmas Is Revenge
[Blog Category: Revenge]
Scroll down for parts 2 and 1
- Own your feelings--or your feelings will own you.
If you'd told me my marriage would end after eighteen years of "staying and praying" I'd have bet Stormie Omartian's life against it. Stormie Omartian authored the Power of a Praying Wife. And in 2013 I wanted to stuff a sweaty sock in her mouth.
I'd spent the better part of a year arguing with the hubs as his steady decline of moral integrity gained ruthless momentum. In the interin, my heart clung to 1 Corinthians 13: 7 as a means to hush the "still, small, voice"--a conflicting dynamic that goes virtually unaddressed in women's ministry: "Love always protects. Always trusts. Always hopes. Always perseveres." But what's a Bible-study-girl to do when her intuition warns: "Molly, you in danger, girl." (Quote from the movie, Ghost, that totally reveals my age.)
Like any story worth telling, the plot thickens and the tension escalates until I'm compelled to check the phone bill. Bang! Bang! In the words of Nancy Sinatra, "My baby shot me down." I recognize the number right away. She is my closest friend. She lives four houses down. Our teenage sons have been best friends since first grade.
How can this be? The dramatic irony is that AT&T's tagline is Re-think Possible. Here I sit at my kitchen table where I've served my husband thousands of meals, re-thinking all manner of possibilities. Subsequently, this begins an unfortunate phase were I prefer swear words over ten-week Bible Studies.
I'm weary. I'm worried. I'm filled with wrath.
I want them to suffer.
God help me.
God knows, there are times when I volunteer for the leading role in a dramatic series in my life. This is not one of them. This is a bad TV movie with mulitple air dates and times. I want to hurl the remote at the images in my mind's eye. I reach to turn my emotions down, but they only grow louder as the event sequences take on a nightmarish plot of their own.
My best friend, who lives a stone's throw away, has no regard for my pain, my presence, or my dogs, who whine for her when they spot her outdoors. My husband, now tragically detached, sleeps with his iPhone and steps around me as if to avoid spilled milk on the floor. My sons, groomed to believe I am too sensitive, shame me for crying every day.
Something's gotta give.
iMessage: Pastor, do you have any time to meet with me next week? There's been a crisis in my marriage. Like--game over, crisis. Thanks.
[break in story]
A person can suddenly be empowered to forgive. It happens. But when harmful acts stack high and pain runs deep the desire for revenge is only natural. The million dollar question isn't whether or not we should have this desire, but rather, who's got control, God--or the enemy?
I chose God. Rather than attempting to pray away the desire for revenge, I owned it like a champ and schlept it with me into the Light. Here's how:
First, I acknowledged that my crappy circumstances were not unique to me. I was in good company with King David who prayed:
- For it is not an enemy who reproaches me; then I could bear it. Nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me; then I could hide from him. But it was you, a man my equal, my companion and my friend. (Psalm 55: 12-14)
Second, I sought pastoral counsel and implored the aid of a good psychologist who shared my fatih.
Pastor: So, how are you doing?
Me: I wanna kill him. I'm sorry, I know the Bible is all "thou shalt not kill."
Pastor: Wendy, God has wiped out entire cities due to the sins of man. He's felt angry enought to kill. You're created in His image. Why can't you feel this angry? You've read the Old Testament. (By the way, don't kill your husband.) Are you willing to see a pyschologist to help you process these feelings? I'll refer you.
I chose to take refuge in God and opted out on the enemy's plans for revenge--and so began my daily conversion. It wasn't easy. Of course I experienced temper flares. I FELT. God Almighty, there was no getting around feeling. But right from the start I scheduled and kept my appointments. I prayed. I praised. I cried. A lot.
I proclaimed: I will not hate. I will hate what they did. I will hate how I feel. But I will not hate them.
Lastly, I refused to hide my feelings. I confessed my darkest desires to God and to my counselor:
Me: Last week I saw [her] at my son's school. I had no idea I was still so angry. I thought my face was gonna melt right off my head. When I got back to my car I projectile cried. Who knew that was possible.
Psychologist: It's normal to experience a rush of emotion. You've not seen her face to face in several months. It's a sign of healing that you were able to maintain composure.
Me: Oh, good. But can I tell you what I felt like doing?
Psychologist: Go ahead.
Me: I wanted to walk right up to her, grab both sides of her hair with my hands and yank her head down so hard and fast over my knee that it would break her nose.
Psychologist: My, you did feel a rush of anger.
Me: Oddly, I feel so much better having told you.
Go ahead, get it out, Sister
If in the 55th Psalm, King David can describe to God, the revenge he desires to befall upon his enemies, it stands to reason we can do the same to safeguard against fueling anger and violent thoughts. Please note that I remained accountable to my psychologist and my pastor. Secrets are dangerous. Our bodies do not us anywhere our minds have not taken us first. Confession is a holy sacrament. And key in taking thoughts captive.
Time for a little creative writing. Write a prayer that consists of the same three elements in King David's prayer to God. (Psalm 55: 14-18)
- Tell God what happened.
- Confess your darkest desires.
- Proclaim the goodness of God, and invite His saving grace into your circumstances.
Next, read it to someone safe and credible and remain accountable. If it helps, here's a look at what I prayed.
God, it might be easier if I didn't know her. She was my friend for ten years. I loved her. I trusted her. We've had a thousand cups of coffee together. We've prayed together, shopped together, drank too much wine together. I am humiliated, and every time I think of the calls she made to my husband unbeknownst to me, I want to break her nose. May she come face to face with the harm she's caused. May he come face to face with the destruction he's brought to our family. As for me, I will call upon your name, my Savior, my Healer. Avenge me Oh Lord, so I will know peace. Amen.
My Christmas gift to you:
If your burdens are the direct result of the careless or cruel sins of another, to focus on that person will gorilla glue you to all the weighty and unwanted broken you feel. Revenge is a trap. Seek refuge. Avenge a cause in Christ. Initially, the cause represents the abuse/betrayal you alone endured. Because what happened to you matters a great deal to God.
Every healthy decision you make and healthy action you take translates into the defense of your personal worth. In Luke 15: 4 Jesus says the mark of a good shepherd is his willingness to leave the ninety-nine to recover the one lost sheep.
You alone are cause enough. And you have an important decision to make. Who will fulfill your desire for revenge? The enemy or God?
- Revenge, which is less concerned about justice and more about retaliation by inflicting harm. OR-
- Avenge; a healthy reaction to wrongdoing with the intent of seeing justice done.
"I have heard your prayers, I have seen your tears . . . I will deliver you, I will defend you" (Isaiah 38:5).
"It is next to impossible to hear the voice of wisdom if we are not really listening for it to begin with. The best counsel in the world is wasted counsel if our minds are already made up."
--Andy Stanley, The Principle Of The Path
We get better together,
Published on Saturday, January 19, 2019 @ 10:55 PM CDT
Part 2 of All I Want For Christmas Is Revenge
[Blog category: Revenge]
- We cannot overcome what we deny.
- Healing begins with honest confession.
The desire for revenge seeks expression. When this desire goes unidentified or unconfessed, it gains momentum until it is fulfilled by the enemy in ways that bring destruction: Lashing our verbally/physically in an attempt to punish and/or create feelings of remorse in another person.
If you read my blog regualary, most likely you've suffered abuse/or traumatic betrayal. You don't deserve the destruction darkness is hell-bent on bringing. So bring it into the Light. "With you O Lord, is the fountain of life, and in your light we see light" (John 10:10).
The HOW to Your NOW
What is a woman to do we with a desire that is rarely overcome in a single-prayer filled bound? How can she submit her desire for revenge to Light?
It begins with validation. God knows what's happened to you, and He cares. This Advent season when hearts are focused on the coming Christ, let's also welcome His presence in the desires of our souls. And trust that if in the midst of multi-colored lights we only see RED, Jesus will meet us right where we are. He desires to love us away from the path of destruction and toward one that is life-giving. This calls for honest communiation--Old Testament style, like in Psalm 55, when King David discovered his best friend was not a friend after all.
King David to God: "For it is not an enemy who reproaches me; then I could bear it. Nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me; then I could hide from him. But it was you, a man my equal, my companion and my acquaintacne. We took sweet counsel together and walked to the house of God in the throng."
Next, he tells God how he really feels.
"Let death seize them; let them go down alive into hell for wickedness is in their dwellings and among them."
Wow. Who knew the angry retort "go to hell" originated with a man desribed in Sacred Scripture as "a man after God's own heart." Oh, to be human after-all. Turns out, the saving grace is that it was not David's only desire.
"As for me, I will call upon God, and the Lord shall save me. Evening morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, and He shall hear my voice. He has redeemed my soul in peace from the battle that was against me, for there were many against me."
What I love so much about this story is that he opened his heart to God. Not everything in King David's heart was clean and pretty. But some of it was. The point is, he confessed it all.
It hurts to be betrayed by someone with whom we share no personal attachments, but a close friend is another matter altogether. It's particulary painful--painful enough to spark a desire for revenge. He was only human-after all, and so are we.
Notice that He cried out in the evening, morning, and at noon. He had mulitple conversations with God about the betrayal he'd endured and confessed even the darkest of his soul's desires. (Clearly, passions are high when you ask God to burn your enemies alive.) He didn't merely want them to die. He wanted them to suffer intense pain unto their last breath. But always, always, he acknoweldges the goodness of God in his prayers.
What can we learn from this? Even for a king, forgiveness takes time. And now is as good a time as any to say, time takes time, too.
"Although the psalmist requests some due punishment for his enemies his tone is one of deference to God, who is always just." (This theological commentary is a winning combination that's served me well over the years.) And I am no theologian! (ref. CCC 271, 1991)
I encourage you to mediate on this concept. Talk to God. Journal your thoughts if you're uncomfortable speaking aloud to Him. In Part 3, I'll reveal a seemingly endless stretch of time where the desire for revenge burned so hot it's a wonder I didn't spontaneously combust. AND more importantly, show you how I submitted my desire for reveng to Christ.
We get better together!
Published on Thursday, January 17, 2019 @ 9:06 AM CDT