Children should honor their parents and I believe all children want to do so. However, when parents behave in ways that are dishonorable and harmful to the child, those children are provoked, filled with anger, and rebel. Abuse causes children to act out in wrath, with destructive behavior of their own. I was such a child and by the end of my childhood, I was angry most of the time. Most of my rage was turned inward and my most destructive acts were committed against myself but I at times, targeted others too. I was mad at the world and so far in denial about the abuse I’d survived as a child that I didn’t even understand why. My anger seemed to come out of nowhere and I thought there had to be something wrong with my brain. I felt a lot of guilt over not being able to control how I felt and that added to the shame I carried over things done to me as well as, things I had done. In church, I was taught that all human anger was wrong and there were times I doubted the validity of my standing with God. I felt helpless in the face of my anger but in the person of Jesus, I found the guidance I needed to transform my wrath into joy.
I went years without understanding myself as a victim of childhood abuse and I couldn’t heal from my anger until I understood and accepted that fact. I didn’t like thinking of myself as a victim. It made me feel weak and foolish; but I was only a child, I was weak and foolish and adults in my life took advantage of that. My first steps of transformation from wrathful to joyful came with accepting the truth about me and my childhood. I also, began to look to the Bible for myself, in order to see what God’s Word teaches about anger, as opposed to what I’d been taught. Immediately, I saw that both God the Father and Jesus the Son were sometimes angry, even wrathful. I also, noticed that their anger was directed at abuses against God. I soon came to understand it was okay to be mad at those things that make God angry and it was okay to be angry, even wrathful about the sins committed against me as a child. I was comforted to know that my being abused made God angry too. What wasn’t okay was for me to act out in blind, destructive, anger. I began to understand that God gave me anger for a purpose and a part of that purpose was using my righteous anger to help heal the emotional, psychological, and spiritual wounds that a childhood of abuse created in me. My righteous anger enabled me to stand up to the abuse and discard the misappropriated guilt and shame that I had carried for decades. The end of that process brought me to a point of being able to forgive my parents (though our relationship hasn’t been restored as they need to do their part to receive my forgiveness) and finally, let go of the rage that was provoked in me as a child. I’d tried to force forgiveness so many times in the past but I couldn’t simply, choose to do so. Forgiveness is a process and using my God-given anger to stand up to protect myself (as that ability was taken from me early) and heal myself, enabled me to die to those offences, once and for all, and rise to live again. There are no short-cuts to forgiveness and true forgiveness isn’t cheap.
Next to receiving Christ, there is no more joyful moment than the one when I could say, “It is finished” and walk away from the destruction of my childhood, fully transformed from broken wrathful-child to a restored joyful-woman, in Christ. How thankful I am for the joy I have in Jesus!