Reservoirs of Wrath
I have been re-listening to some recordings that I received a number of years ago that made a profound difference in the way I view God. But as I listen to these again after years of study and changes in my perspective it is almost as if I have never heard them in some respects. I am amazed at how many details I don't remember hearing before but that line up perfectly with the conclusions and insights that I have received from my own study and interaction with God since I first listened to them. I am also learning a great deal more from these details now that I have the larger framework and context more securely in place in my thinking.
One thing that really grabbed my attention yesterday was about the subject of wrath which has been a major paradigm shift for me over the past few years. My transition to a completely different understanding of God's wrath has been possibly the most radical and transforming truth that I have ever discovered in my life. But I had still missed what was brought to my attention about the core truth about wrath as presented in Romans 1 and 2.
I was reminded of this again this morning as I was reading Psalm 37.
Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. Cease from anger and forsake wrath; do not fret; it leads only to evildoing. (Psalms 37:7-8)
I have observed at different times over the past few years that there seems to be a deeply buried container far under my conscious awareness most of the time. This container is full of feelings, intense feelings that I experienced when I was much younger and was living under the abusive ideas and assumptions about a tyrannical God who demanded perfect performance from me or would threaten to punish me severely. This picture of God was induced in my heart partly by the teachings of my culture and partly by the methods by which I was disciplined. In my heart it seemed that life was made up much more of fear and suppression and control than it was filled with love. This was likely due to the fact that those before me had experienced abuse and confusion about God far worse than I ever did and so they did not have the mentoring themselves to know how to raise a family or lead a church with the kind of love that Jesus demonstrated.
But the effect of this kind of treatment at the heart level caused me to store up and suppress anger, bitterness and rage. For a number of years this anger would leak out on a regular basis and get me into trouble. Each time this happened it had the effect of training me to repress even more tightly this inner container of rage so that it would not bring me even more pain and punishment. This seemed to be the intended effect by those around me – just stuff it was the unspoken message I had almost always received.
Living in a performance-oriented society of course went right along with this tendency to suppress negative feelings instead of learning to experience real healing. Our concept of religion was typical in that we were far more focused on external performance and appearances than we were on experiencing resolution, honesty, healing and transformation at the heart level. We used words and phrases that gave lip service to heart transformation but in reality my religion was far more focused on external conformity to rules and positive appearances than to dealing honestly and effectively with problems deep inside.
I was trained well along this line of performance religion and learned to put a heavy lid on my emotions, to the point that I soon found it difficult to experience many emotions at all, even good ones. I am now left with a legacy of a mind and heart that is severely crippled and unable to freely engage in or express many emotions because of the fear and lack of use of my emotional internal equipment. Particularly damaging was the hobbling of my ability to receive and to express love freely. It has only been in the past few years that I have realized the danger of my condition and have been trying to slowly recover the use of my heart as I have begun to realize that this is the part of me that God wants most to connect with me.
But restarting my emotional apparatus has its dangers as I am finding out. As I slowly begin to peek behind doors in my heart in that part of my makeup I am finding relics from the past and monsters locked away in cages that have never been dealt with and that are still not dead as was hoped. As these old areas of my heart are brought into contact with the outside they have the ability to stir up old feelings – intense feelings that can easily frighten me and cause me to want to repress them quickly again which is very easy to do.
The problem is that my guidance system, my governing decisions about the direction I want my life to go is in the opposite direction from engaging in continued repression of my heart. On the one hand I see my fears of releasing old monsters within and having to face them, which other parts of my mind are carefully guarding to keep them locked away. It seems easy enough to simply keep the status quo and continue to cling to the lie that somehow these ancient dragons will simply fade away. But on the other hand I realize that the status quo will only lead to disastrous meltdown when circumstances expose these secret cages in my heart. That is what is called judgment, the exposing of the deep things of the heart.
But as I listened to this teacher yesterday I was confronted with the truth that these emotional monsters are never going to go away on their own simply by repressing or ignoring them, no matter how much I can thoroughly forget them at the conscious level. Until I am willing to allow God's Spirit into those many rooms from my past and face those ugly feelings by introducing His presence and love and truth into those rooms of memories, I am actually a living example of what Paul talks about in Romans 1 and 2 where he describes the real truth about what is usually called God's wrath.
But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God... (Romans 2:5)
The more I have become aware of the real truth about the day of judgment the more clear it becomes that the wrath that is revealed in that day is going to come from within the hearts of humans, not from the heart of God. I have discovered that it is the friction between the passionate love of the Father for us revealed in His presence and glory clashing with the rejection of His mercy in the hearts of all who refuse to believe what He is really like – it is this clash that will serve to torture with supreme agony the hearts and minds and souls of all who will be lost.
And the place from which this tension comes will be the hearts that have stored up and retained anger, bitterness, resentment and wrath that has never been healed by the sweet Spirit of God's healing love. As I retain any of my dark views of God in various ways and insist on believing that He is a God who will torture anyone who refuses His offers of love and mercy, then when I come face to face in the final day of judgment with the real love that I have refused to believe in, the conflict between these irreconcilable realities will become the very source of the fires of hell that will torture me to death if I have refused to be transformed by the true Spirit of Jesus.
So I was stunned and alarmed when it suddenly became clear to me that unless I am willing to allow God to open up this large cesspool of pain and rage that still lurks deep beneath the surface inside of me, that this reservoir of wrath will eventually prove to be my greatest liability and will itself become the fuel for the fires of hell for me personally. This is a very sobering realization for me and one that I do not want to ignore. It is both a warning and an invitation that I must be willing to be much more serious about connecting with God's healing presence and allowing Him total access to every dark cell and every painful memory if I want to really experience the genuine transformation that is talked about in Romans 8 and 12:2.