on feeling aggrieved

I’ve been feeling aggrieved lately.

Years serving under the colours as it were and now that I’ve left abruptly, I have little to show for it: depleted finances, a dragging degree I’ve long since lost interest in, a handful of wistful photos, and a winding, misty path ahead.

I feel like I’m owed something for all I’ve done. Why haven’t You rewarded me commensurately? Aren’t You the great provider?

And all of a sudden I’m a victim of injustice. Society, church, school, and God have not delivered as I have delivered. Where is my reward?

All of a sudden I am Cain, seething at that little prick’s offering, burnt nothings that he didn’t earn through sweat and toil, and how dare He smile on it?

All of a sudden I am the dutiful older brother, unable even to speak my sibling’s name — this whoremongering son of Yours who’s crawled back — because just like that he’s given what I’ve singlemindedly worked for all my life, how dare You?

I know this is a bad place to be. This is where your soul dies and burns. And it stays dying and burnt because it feels good, stewing in your own self-righteous, aggrieved rage. Where you sit and fume, I am a victim and I am owed goddammit, and to hell with anyone and any god who tells me otherwise, or withholds my reward. Only I’m in hell and I like it there. I might even get others to join me.

So no, bad place to be. Where do we go from there? Two ways I suppose. Or one way really.

I could tell myself no, I am not a victim, I am not aggrieved. Count your blessings. Lalalalala. In the end window dressing to cover up the raw, throbbing wound of grievance. It’s not so much a road out of hell as a very wide U-turn.

Or I could tell myself that yes, in many ways I am a victim: regardless of whether or not I am owed overall, I am at least at this moment hurt, my grievances not unreal.

Do I let the aggrievedness take over at this point (in which case U-turn)? Or do I preach to myself:

Yes you are hurt. Yes in some ways you are a victim — of others but also of your own bad calls. But think of Christ and all you have in him, wouldn’t you say that is weightier than your grievance? Yes you’ve missed out on some things, been deprived of others — but have you not received free of cost, yet at dear cost to someone else, the most beautiful, wondrous thing, Christ himself, eternal glory? And doesn’t this outweigh, outshine, overpower anything and everything you could have possibly missed out on in the past? The sweat of your brow earned you some things, it made you miss others; some of those in your life gave you much, others took away or withheld what was supposed to be yours, some of those things you just let slip through your fingers — yes it hurts, but unbelievably, what you already have, earned not by yourself but long ago by someone else for you, is unimaginably more precious and beautiful. Bravely live in hope and expectation of that.

That makes hell just a little less desirable, if only for now. I think that’s what (among other things) made Abel and the younger son beloved. Beloved and whole, though not sinless.

And since when have belovedness and wholeness meant less than recompense? I’ll try to fix my eyes on what I have that no one, not even myself, can take away.

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