Grace and Calamity
“Calvary is judo - the enemy’s own power is used to defeat him.”— Peter Kreeft
It took me a lot of years to understand that I was abused as a child. I have since learned that denial and secrecy are hallmarks of growing up that way. But keep this a secret or pretend it’s not so bad aren’t words that are ever spoken. It is a coping mechanism meant to help a child—a family—survive. I didn’t understand this until all of that anger inside—anger at God, at myself, at others—started to really debilitate my adult relationships.
This anger has been a persistent struggle for a long time. But things are much better for me now than they once were. I have a unique perspective on life now, because when I start to feel a certain way about something, I know what questions to ask of myself. And usually the answers to those questions take me back some years, to a place and time gone by, when I believed something about myself or the world and those beliefs start to inform the moment I am in today.
My anger over what happened to me is not unique. Rates of abuse and domestic violence are staggering. I don’t need to quote statistics. If we haven’t experienced it ourselves, we know someone who has. Or if we don’t, we’ve read the news or social media reports and so we are familiar. I am blessed not only to have survived, when so many do not, but also I am blessed because I have discovered the anger inside of myself, when so many do not.
This anger that I am talking about gets down deep inside of you. It can come out as rage and as violence, obviously, but it can also be subtle and almost undetectable, hiding itself behind a handsome veneer. It can manifest as judgmentalism, as resentment, as jealousy and bitterness. Folks like me—and there are many of us—who have known anger on such an intimate level, who have lived with it for so long, with no idea that it was even there—we can see the world with a new level of understanding once we have made these connections.
When I observe the political landscape these days and the violence in people's homes and in the streets, I don’t wonder “what’s going on?” I know. People are angry. People are angry because they’ve been mistreated, defeated, abused, forgotten. They have been left fatherless or motherless. They have been put down by those meant to protect them. And I am not talking about the police. I am talking about in the family. Abusers, whether they are the cop or the violent protestor chasing him down, are angry and violent because it was done to them. Something happened to shut their humanity down at some point in their life, to make them feel small, scared, uncared for, and then that feeling went to sleep, lonely and disturbed, because it was never soothed back to the real by love. And then it wakes up; comes like a reckoning, and it takes over.
When I look at the state of the world today I see calamity upon calamity but not because of all this disease and violence. It is because of what is underneath it all. I found this thing inside of myself. I am angry, cold towards my "loved ones", and I feel lost. It is not fit for a human being to feel this way. Something has gone terribly wrong. Because I believe in the God of the old Roman Tree, I believe that what he came to undo began long before my time and any person in it. It began in a garden. A beautiful, verdant place, where peace was the culture. We all know how that story ended, with the first pair of homo sapiens making the inaugural pilgrimage in search of redemption. From that moment on, the earth on which we stand would challenge us, and smack us down from time to time. And life would be weary.
But as I made the painful journey back—down all the roads that got me where I am today—and as I confronted memories and buried feelings, I asked why? What did it all mean? My question was aimed at God. He had been waiting for me to ask it. I thought it was a dare. Indeed, how dare you was on my lips. How dare you let this happen to me. I said out loud for almost fifteen years that I followed Jesus, but I didn’t know him in any loving kind of way, and I was mad at him.
Anger can make a man feel out of control. Such crazed thoughts would inhabit me at times that I didn’t understand how I could ever survive another day. I was manic at times. On a height one day. In the dregs the next. Like Job did his companions, I listened to counsel after counsel. All of their words were true, but I could not bear it. I could not accept it. There was too much pain. But unlike Job I didn't have the heart to bless the name of God in spite of it all.
So where was he in my moments of torment, when the abuse was happening? When I was powerless before my oppressor?
In order for me to get to a certain truth about God, I had to go back to many of those painful places with him. I had to experience it again with him, so that he could tell me what the truth was. That is when I found him there. He was there all along! Invisible but imposing. If what was happeing to me was a cross, then He was on that cross back of me. He was perfecting a sacrifice I did not understand that I was making at the time.
Now, all these years removed, I consent to what I could not consent to before. I have been pulled, with a holy violence, from a place of darkness. Everything that had ever been done to me that was wrong was made right by God. This has become my testimony.
The man of darkness once stood over me like a phantom, working his power against me. He tried to kill me. He thought he killed the Man once, too. But the Man came down from the wood. He entered in upon the grave, made of stones he fashioned with his own hands. And then he bid himself rise up.
I came up with him, much to the devil’s dismay. I rose up on the wounds of Jesus. I overcame nothing of myself. I was overcome by grace.
Charlie is a mid-thirties guy who resides in sunny Florida with his small (but growing!) family. Charlie holds a B.A. in Religion and Apologetics and works in the financial services industry by day, writing about recovery, the Catholic Faith and Taming the Wild places in the human heart in his spare time. His writing has been featured in places like the Catholic stand, SpiritualDirection.com, Catholic Exchange and in print at Shalom Tidings. Charlie serves as the Managing Editor for Taming the Wilds and can be reached at email@example.com.