In October 2007, I was sitting in the prayer theater before my portable church started. I felt compelled to go sit in the quiet darkness and just be with God. I can’t remember who or what had beaten me down, but I remember not feeling super-spiritual. I must have been mad or upset about something (or at someone), because I remember just meditating on being mad and offended.
How do I remember this? Because God gave me this profound thought – the way I was feeling was literally squeezing the life and light of God out of me. I was:
And what is that anagram? BOA. God gave me the picture of a BOA constrictor, a deadly snake that kills by slowly squeezing the breath of life out of its victim. For every breath the victim takes, the snake squeezes a little tighter. Until the victim cannot breathe at all.
And that’s what my emotions were doing to me back in 2007.
It was profound enough that I wrote down the thought and kept it with me all these years. I knew it was too good to let go of or forget. And I haven’t.
So it was this time last year, exactly to the day as I look at the calendar (1/22/14), when I sat in a different movie theater, this time for a movie instead of church. The same setting and the same feelings. The same overwhelming, constricting emotions trying to overtake me.
I was so overcome by anger, bitterness, offense, and confusion that I took a mental health day from work. After being driven to the point of insanity by a co-worker and having no outlet or defense, I found solace the only way that seemed acceptable – taking an unplanned day off. I was so emotionally overwhelmed and overwrought, and I knew that office was the least safe place to be. So I took my broken soul and went to see a movie. After all, what better escape from reality than to live in someone else’s story for two hours?
Sure, I could hide from my co-workers. Sure, I could skip out of work. Sure, I could pretend that my troubles didn’t exist and try to escape from my reality.
But there is one simple truth we can never avoid – we can’t hide from God. He’ll find us and talk to us and try to get through to us wherever we go and whatever we do. The movie theater. The grocery store. The gym. Our desk at work. Our own couch. Our car. Because we can’t run away from His far-reaching, unconditionally-loving, all-encompassing purpose for our life.
He will use whoever we are with and whatever we are going through to try to teach us and guide us and help us. I know this because He used both of the movies I watched that day to speak to me.
In “Saving Mr. Banks” Walt Disney is trying to convince “Mary Poppins” author Mrs. P. L. Travers to trust him with her stories. He wants to fulfill a promise to his daughters to turn her beloved Mary Poppins stories into a Disney classic movie. But she is stubborn and refuses to consider his offer … until she is told she is broke and needs this deal in order to keep her house. The movie is about her journey in learning to trust him as she slowly lets go of her beloved character (who, it turns out, is her one last connection to the beloved father she lost as a child).
So what did God tell me? Give me your story. Give me those emotions and fears strangling My life out of you, hardening your heart, and closing your ears to My voice. Give Me your anger, your frustration, your disappointment, your offense, and your hurt. Give Me your days and trust Me. Follow Me and allow Me to guide your story to a happy ending. And He even snuck in a reminder about forgiving those who have hurt us or disappointed us. When we don’t, we become consumed by our hurt, our unforgiveness, our grief, and our anger. And these things become the guiding forces in our life, determining our decisions, our thoughts, and our actions.
Since I was already there, I decided to also see “Frozen”. And God again spoke to me. Queen Elsa is told all her life to hide her special icy powers and to not be herself. She is kept locked away in her room to spare humanity from any suffering at her hands. She is never allowed to accept her gift or use her gift or even appreciate her gift. So when she is finally old enough to be made queen, she is forced to venture out publicly, wearing her mask of shame and hiding who she really is. The stress eventually becomes too much, and her secret is revealed. She makes a run for the mountains, where she is finally able to be her true self entirely. She’s finally free to let the icicles fly. No more hiding and no moer shame about the (ice) storm inside her. And the now famous song “Let It Go” becomes her anthem.
So what did God tell me? Let it go. Your anger isn’t hurting the other person or making the situation better. Hiding and isolating yourself doesn’t help. You have to face your feelings and give them to Me. Let them go into My capable hands so I can heal you and help you.
Can I let it go? Can I really give it all to God?
We’ve all been bitten by the snake (Bitterness, Offense, Anger). He’s invaded our lives multiple times in multiple ways to infect us with venom. He’s probably paired two or three of emotions together to make a lasting impact. The goal is always the same – to wrap so tightly around our heart that our life, our joy, our grace, and our peace are squeezed out of us without us even realizing it. To keep us from moving forward and making any progress. To drain our spirit so that we have no faith to believe and no hope to continue. To destroy our love walk so that we are completely selfish and self-centered. To block the voice of God from directing and encouraging us.
Sometimes the snake (Bitterness, Offense, Anger) is a welcome guest. Sometimes we invite him in and allow him full access to ourselves. He’s a welcome companion who goes with us wherever we go. We think he’s comforting to our hurts.
But it’s all a lie. He isn’t our friend. He doesn’t have our best interest at heart. He wants to destroy us, and the longer we allow him to linger, the harder it will be to kick him out. With each thought, each emotion, each mental replay he grows another root in our life. The snake (Bitterness, Offense, Anger) doesn’t want to leave. His power comes from our inability and unwillingness to forgive. He gets bigger and more powerful when we give into his presence.
Sometimes we allow him to get so big he seems like 9’ Goliath. In full battle armor. A totally intimidating and undefeatable foe. But David took down Goliath with full faith in God and one smooth stone. And so can you.
Your snake (Bitterness, Offense, Anger) can be defeated. Your snake can be destroyed. Your snake can be kicked to the curb.
It will take persistence. It will take forgiveness. It will take grace. It will take time. With each person and hurt you forgive, it will become easier. With each step of faith, no matter how small, you will be come more willing. With each attitude of thankfulness, your heart will become more open.
So what is squeezing at your heart?
What is keeping you from loving people, yourself, and/or God?
What is constricting the grace of God from your words, actions, thoughts, and emotions?
What do you need to let go of? (What hurt has been holding you back?)
Who do you need to forgive?
We have 365 days each year. 365 opportunties to begin anew and make different choices. Allow today to the be the day you start saying “yes” to God and His path of forgiveness instead of saying “yes” to the snake (Bitterness, Offense, Anger). Make today the day you make a new choice to be a grace-full person and a force for the goodness of God instead of the destruction of the snake.
Marie Fremin; 1/22/15, 1/24/15