I grew up knowing the truth about Jesus. I was a church baby… my daddy was a pastor, for goodness sake! I was a serious child, so when I made a personal profession of faith around the age of 7, it was after all of the thoughtful consideration a child can reasonably be expected to make. It was real. I loved Jesus, and I knew I needed him to take away my sin and help me live fully in this life and make it into heaven in the next.
Fast forward to my sophomore year of high school and my life was falling apart in the way only adolescent lives can. My safe place, the church, had become a place of hurt and isolation. My teenage emotions had been manipulated. People who had told me for years that they loved me and my family were dropping out of our lives. And I was mad. Church was supposed to be different. Christians were supposed to be different. How dare they hurt me like this? I was foolish to believe them all along, to let them get close.
Months passed and I let myself sink further and further into my anger and isolation. I locked myself in my bedroom, writing furiously, vowing never to let myself get close enough to be hurt by Christians again. During this year, anger gradually took the place of church in my life. Anger became my default, my safe place. Anger felt good, it felt right, it took over.
And then I had another encounter with Jesus. I can’t say it was an audible voice, but I heard it just as surely as I’ve ever heard anything in my life.
Yes, you’ve been hurt. But you’ve got to make a choice. Now.
Stop threatening and walk away. Quit this Christianity thing once and for all.
Or run to me. Let me set you free from the anger. Let me set you free to abundant life.
Knees on my bedroom floor, face buried in my hands, I knew my answer instantly.
Lord, you have the words of life. Where else can I go?
I wish this was the end of the story. The truth is that, because they are sinful, broken people (just like me), the ones who were supposed to be safe, who were supposed to be different, would let me down again. My anger came back with a vengeance.
Not just, “How dare they hurt me?”
But also, “How dare I let them? I should have known better. Never again. Never again.”
This time the anger was easier. It felt safe. I knew how to do angry. But this time I knew the eventuality too. I knew that I couldn’t walk away. I knew that though the chains of anger were familiar, they were also heavy. And I knew that I couldn’t break them alone. This anger was powerful. I couldn’t wish it away or reason it away or work it away.
Run to me, Jesus was saying again.
Let me set you free from the anger. Let me set you free to abundant life.
Back to my knees I went, and again I met Jesus as my deliverer.
I love the truth that Jesus made me new once and for all when I confessed him as a child. But he is also making me new every day as I choose to live in his freedom. Freedom from the anger that still crashes into my life with one word or thought or memory. Freedom into relationship and vulnerability and trust and grace. Abundant, extravagant grace. Enough grace for the past. Enough grace for the ones who claim Jesus but don’t always live like him. Enough grace to confront my criticism and judgment. Enough grace, after all, for me.