When Survival Isn't Enough: A Better Way to Live (and Die)

How has your week gone? It's been a busy week here at fish camp. The salmonberries have come ripe, meaning forays into my island jungles and brambles, kayak trips to gather berries and fireweed, and pots of simmering jam. 

The eaglets are almost out of their nest entirely. 

The field has been cut.

And there's been excitement too. A few days ago, it was blowing 25 mph Southeast. Duncan and I were both traveling back from Larsen Bay, with wind and grey water whipping around us, the skiff pounding through every wave, our bodies rattled and wet on every landing. And then, in a moment, we were out of gas. Dead in the way-too-alive water. We had more than a mile to go. The insistent wind and waves wanted to push us to a crashing cliff-lined shore. Out came the oars, ancient oars with half the paddle gone. We looped some line around the oars for makeshift oarlocks, and both of us began coordinating our oars to keep us off the cliffs and straight down the channel. We would hit our island eventually. If the wind had been blowing any other direction, we would have been lost for hours, or worse. 

And----a few days later, another emergency on the water. Another prayer, another crisis to survive . . . 

And last night. Last night I trotted up the gravel hill and through the entryway to our house, and suddenly I couldn't breathe. A noxious gas nearly closed my throat. My eyes stung. I could hear a hissing sound. I stood for a few seconds, as long as I dared looking for the source of the sound, then burst through the door to the house and closed it, sucking in clean air. Ammonia. My 30 year old refrigerator was leaking ammonia. At high enough levels, it kills people. If it had happened in the night, while we were sleeping . . . (Imagine that on your tombstone "Killed by her refrigerator"?)

We all have these moments---the rattling plane, the sinking boat, the tornado too close, the thief with the gun, the car over the edge . . . But we make it. We survive. We'll do anything to survive, anything to see another day. 

Of course. We cannot give up on this life. But living is not enough. Self-preservation is not enough. It's really not. 

I've had struggles of another kind this week. In between the writing, the salmon-filleting and jam-making, the feeding of a full table, the loving of children, the mending of nets, the gathering of fish, the emergencies . ..  I've been visited by Anger. Do you know what its face looks like when it bursts into the room of your heart? Have you looked it straight in the face and seen how much it looks like you? 

This Anger tells me it wants to save me. It says it's for my own good. That I need it to set things right. This Anger tells me I am right--I have been wronged. It says it loves me, that I need it to survive. And I know, I have seen how anger keeps some people alive.

 I am the same as everyone else----I have cause to answer the doorbell and welcome her into my house, to give her my feather bed and pour her tea in china cups every morning, taking notes while she tells me, smiling between sips, what I've been doing wrong, how I've let injustices pass, the ways I've been robbed of my power and my rights. 

There IS a righteous anger that brings life out of death, that calls out abuse and oppression. But this anger promises survival and happiness, but when I lean in to listen closer, I hear a hissing, like the ammonia from the fridge. My eyes sting, my throat closes and I should run, but I don't. I stay. I think these noxious words will make me strong.               

 Have you seen your own face in the morning after you have slept with ammonia in the air? 

This Anger only wants to suffocate and kill. 

I'm kicking it out of my house.  I'm letting go of my fists, my rights, my wrongs. I know these words are true: 

"Remember this, my dear friends! Everyone must be quick to listen, but slow to speak and slow to become angry.
 God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger. 
So throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage. In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life."

Already I can breathe. I have taken back my bed, my house, my tea cups.

I see this salvation-garden just outside my house this very night. 

Will you join me?

Let Anger go.

Kick it out.

Let God make a salvation-garden of your life.