When I was growing up in Alaska in the 70’s I didn’t have the best of dads. He had irrational anger and a His-Hers-and Ours blend of 8 kids. So we all learned to tip toe around him. If I made the mistake of walking in the living room during one of his shows, he would point to the couch and say “park it.” I ended up liking Star Trek, Jacques Cousteau, and 60 minutes because I was in parking mode until that show was over. I knew who was in control and it wasn’t me, or my 7 siblings. One of my dad’s issues was any anger directed toward him, would make his rage greater. So if I showed anger he would say, “wipe that look off your face or I will do it for you.” We were not allowed to be angry.
The thing about living around those with irrational rage is that in order to survive, I had to live under the radar. Become invisible. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t make waves. I call those years being in survivor mode. To get us kids out of the house, my dad sent us to the Baptist Church every Sunday. It was under the radar that I found God. He lived there with me. As most people who grew up in various levels of abuse or dysfunction learn, living under the radar doesn’t stop when you leave childhood behind.
I went to Bible College, where I learned that other kids had what I imagined were better types of dysfunctional families, and I moved from survivor mode to seriously pissed off victim mode. I inherited my father’s irrational anger. I thought my anger, which simmered under the surface like a rip tide, gave me strength. I thought my anger let me be in control. It didn’t. All it gave me were walls to maintain between myself and people, and empty illusion, along with my own battered old rusty radar. A radar I wanted others to live under. I wanted to have control.
Eventually, I turned my anger to God. But I was between a rock and a hard place. What will God do with my anger? Will he get angry over my anger? I was mad but afraid to be mad. The strength I thought I had, vanished leaving me a sobbing mess. The wonderful thing is that God showed up, and showed me that he is bigger than my anger. I got a picture in my mind of a mountain that I could hit, and kick, and claw at, and scream at, and the mountain was able to take it. He did not move. He Stayed. He didn’t sweep my pain, abuse, woundings under the rug. He reminded me that he was there under the radar with me all those years.
He did not stop my dad’s free will to be abusive, but he did give me the real strength to forgive and move from victim mode to victor mode, able to soar above, free from the need to use my anger as a shield. I gave that rusty old radar to the one who really is in control of it all. God.