Dear Pope Francis,
Thank you for sharing the message (in his homily on April 3, 2014) that it’s okay to be angry with God, to tell him when we think He’s not coming through for us and remind Him of His promises. This was very timely, because I swore at God on Tuesday night. Put simply, I ran out of words that were strong enough to express the hurt and anger that I had inside, and I said a few choice words because it was all I had left.
As a writer, I process a lot linguistically, whether that’s talking it through or writing it out. After I swore, I felt ashamed that my words had failed me so profoundly that I resorted to cursing. But I did feel much better for being able to share my feelings so candidly. There’s something cathartic about being able to find one strong word to let out your feelings, even if that word is a curse word.
I was talking with a friend about your homily and my experience. My friend suggested that while we can swear at God, we also need to be prepared for the times when God will swear back at us. This is interesting, since I don’t necessarily ‘hear’ God speaking to me in prayer; God’s responses are generally a physical feeling rather than a spoken response.
In response to my outburst on Tuesday night, I received nothing but compassion and soothing words and hugs from God the following day. The hugs came in the form of my friends who knew something was wrong, and the compassion and soothing words came from the first reading of the daily liturgy and the homily. The reading came from Isaiah: “Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you” (49:15). The homily celebrated and expressed gratitude for the contribution that different people had made to the school community this year. It all felt soothing, like rubbing aloe vera on a sunburn. It didn’t solve anything, but it acknowledged my hurt and frustration, and most importantly, it gave me hope.
This reminds me of the best friendships that I’ve had in my life, the ones where I can be frustrated and hurt by what a friend says (or I cause the hurt and frustration), but with time we can patch it up. The friendship is so important to both of us that we can forgive each other for the hurt, and be friends again. God is big enough for me to hurl all my hurt, doubts, fear and frustrations at Him, even if that includes swearing. Instead of getting angry at me, he just holds me in patience and love, until I’ve cried and raged myself into silence, and then he reassures me. Only when I’m silent will he tell me that everything will be okay, that I just need to hang on, because He’s got awesome plans for me (Jeremiah 29:11-13). He knows to wait until the silence, because I won’t listen otherwise. And this leaves me speechless with gratitude: that God will wait and speak me to me in a way that I will respond to, even though I was so incredibly angry. The last thing I deserve is that kind of patience and love, and yet there He is, pouring it out.
As we come closer to the Easter season, I am reminded of Jesus’ experience in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mk 14:32-42, Lk 22:39-46, Mt 26:36-46), when he questioned God and felt abandoned. This moment resonates with me, because in it I relate to Jesus’ total humanity. Jesus went on to endure the most painful and humiliating death. But we can’t have the resurrection unless the Passion came first. So while I cry out my rage, frustration and hurt in my own Gethsemane moments, I trust that God is big enough to take it all, and will be with me, ready to show me a new life in the silence that inevitably follows the outburst.