// kicking Christ in the chest

My housemate Rachael likes to joke that my temper works in binary – that it only has two settings, “normal” and “furious”. Apparently I display the same level of anger at discovering that, say, we have run out of milk, as I do at discovering that my house has been burned to the ground.

Lately, though, we’ve both been discovering that she’s wrong.

Because it turns out that beneath the surface, beneath the entertaining, socially-acceptable level of anger that you can shrug off, there is a whole different current in me. One that is buried so deep that it almost feels part of who you are, that can’t be easily articulated but that is forged in pain and perceived injustice and remains searing and white-hot even months (or years) from the events that gave it birth. The kind of anger that makes your hands physically shake just at the sight of someone.

That kind of anger is a problem.

And I know what the answer is. It’s forgiveness – resolving to let it go time and time again and accepting that it is done, it is over, you have forgiven them whether you feel it or not. Continuing to choose to forgive rather than to hold onto bitterness and hurt, even when that seems like the easier option. Jesus said that.

But that sounds like a long, hard slog, and not one that has much glory attached to it. There won’t be any Hollywood moments where there is a dramatic, visible reconciliation. Instead it will be a decision of the will, my choosing to keep letting it go, my struggle.

One author I read on this subject this week even suggested that this is what true courage looks like; being willing to persevere in the exhausting, grinding situations where it doesn’t look like anything will ever change or get any better. Maybe so. But that still doesn’t make it any easier.

What keeps me doing it is the cross.

Because whenever that white-hot rage rises in my chest I remember that the same anger was poured out upon Christ’s body in every blow, every lash, every nail. It was my anger that killed him, my anger that he carried, and my anger that died with him. It is finished, and the visible end consequence of the state of my heart is the man hanging dead and bloodied on that cross.

In the broken, beaten body of Jesus Christ I see the apparently lost hope of a people who had desperately cried out for a saviour only to see him fail. The teacher whose teachings promised a new way of life but instead left him naked, bleeding and dying, nailed to a piece of wood. In him I see all those desperate cries for salvation that failed in that bleak hour of darkness.

I believe that he is risen. That everything has changed, and I am no longer the same. That the darkness that lies within me can be buried with him and is being buried with him even now, as hard as that may be while it is taking place.

I remember that even when things seemed hopeless, hope triumphed.

But I also remember that it is because of this:

“Surely he has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions;
He was crushed for our sins;
Upon him was the punishment that brought us peace;
And by his stripes we are healed.”

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