Revenge is Sweet

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There’s scientific evidence that in our brain, we find enjoyment when punishment is invoked on people who do bad things. And when you think about it, it’s how society works.  On any other level of the animal kingdom, the choice is comprised of being eaten or defending oneself, and doing whatever you can do to protect your herd or yourself from attack. Being the winner isn’t about ego, it’s making sure you survive.

But humans, unlike lions, possess a range of emotions and rational thought, with a detailed division of labor that depends on cooperation and blending.  I know you wouldn’t think this if you were an alien, landed on earth, and happened upon Real Housewives of Orange County or were at a Trump rally.

So there is no surprise that when someone upsets this natural balance and does something to hurt us, we want to equalize things. The thought of revenge permeates us, fills us with pleasure, makes us laugh, satisfies us. It’s like craving an Oreo. And how good does that tastes when it hits your tongue?

But if you eat an entire case of them, you will get sick. And your puke will be a pile of regurgitated sandwich cookies, which is gross.

Modern culture is filled with the concept of revenge. He had it coming. She needed to pay for the sins she committed.  There’s Dirty Harry.  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  And who doesn’t love the scene where the woman burns the car of her husband who had an affair? The flames! The beautiful heels and walking away in a dress with her hair blowing in the wind!

That’s what I’m talking about, you cheat-ass punk. HAND ME AN OREO.

The movies that don’t end this way are flat, unnerving, foreign. Because getting away with bad things is not fair.  It’s disordering the very nature of our society.

Lord knows I’ve been there. Someone very close to me hurt me terribly. I wanted to hurt them back.  I wanted to make them pay for the wrongs they did.  Most of all I thought it was unfair how they got away with it.

But then there’s our inner conscience, a holy spirit who delivers messages to us through our souls.  “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. Romans 12:19

Well what’s the fun in that.

This goes against the very essence of us as humans. The independent side of us, the core of who we are as rational beings.  We don’t want to turn over these things over to God when this person is still around, doing the same things, causing such pain, not even being sorry. So we cling to the hurt like an Albatross.  We fantasize about revenge.  We lambast them on social media. We dream that someday, we’ll have the opportunity to make it right. Maybe also we are a little bit focused on the blow-out and sepia lighting as we walk away from their burning mass of a BMW.

But it doesn’t work.  We are left hungry for more, never full, needing to go farther and finding ourselves angry and stressed. It may work in the movies, but actors are playing a role, a fantasy where revenge equates to justice, where getting even brings deep and abiding satisfaction.  When the director yells cut, they all scatter to their trailers, back to their cell phones and agents, unhappy with reviews and wondering if they will get the next gig.

This is not the training for our life. This is not what we should look at to bring us everlasting peace.  

Look around you.  Is there someone or some group you abhor? There has to be.  This is a world full of hateful horrible things.  Every time I turn around there’s a troll saying despicable things when people are just trying to express themselves.  A white supremacy group.  Someone who burns down religious centers. Maybe even your mother-in-law. I’m kidding.  How bad could her casseroles be?

But think about these groups or people who hurt you.  Put them squarely in front of your mind.

Now think of this:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” Matthew 5:43-47

Take that despicable piece of crap of a person (unless it really is your mother-in-law and then I think we should HAVE COFFEE AND DISCUSS because you are having some concerning issues over this tuna noodle situation), and pray.  Ask the Lord to take this anger and need for justice away from you and put this squarely on God’s shoulders.

“I’m sorry, but they raped me.  They ruined my life. They killed my son.  This I cannot do,” you might say.

I hear you. But I’m not asking for you to have lunch with them.  I’m not asking for you to allow yourself to be hurt any more. It’s not that they deserve any of your mercy.  You don’t have to show any. What I think God is asking of us is to trust that God can handle this.  To trust that his vengeance will be more than we could ever do.  What you are praying for is to release the bonds this person holds over you, to allow the anger to pass on, and to somehow find a way to forgive.  And what God does with them? Have mercy on their souls. But if they just so happen to lose their job or get mauled by a bear or their beautiful new wife divorces them or their own bad deeds come back around to haunt them, I’m not saying you can’t smile JUST A LITTLE.

But you move forward and you can set that burden down. For the first time in your life you finally feel peace.  Because obsessing about revenge only hurts you. The craving for an Oreo can turn into an obsession, and then you eat the entire box, which leads to an eating disorder and a feeling of never being enough, and when you turn around you are hospitalized because you realize you’ve been starving yourself from nourishment all these years.

Resist the urge to give in.  Don’t allow yourself to slip into the waters of revenge and surround yourself with its desires. It’s the devil’s voice, telling you that it’s worth it.

It’s never worth it.  Let God take vengeance on the wicked.  It’s your job to show kindness to strangers, let your heart remain open, forgive and dust off that dirt from your shoes, and walk on into to the next town.

Eat the fruit of the tree that satisfies. Jesus talks of a natural sweetness that lingers, of a peace that endures, of fruit that is born from a tree rooted.  Cleanse yourself of the toxins this new year that are preventing you from really moving forward.  Eat a few Oreos and close the bag, realizing that you need nutrition that does not come from this. And for the love of all that’s made with bacon just smile on Sundays, push it around on your plate, and simply DO NOT EAT THE NASTY CASSEROLE.

Let it go this year.  God can handle it.  That being said, if there is any way for us girls to get together and just blow stuff up with no real agenda other than it’s fun and an excuse to get a full blow-out, I’m not ruling it out as a possibility.

photo:

(three w’s).flickr.com/photos/mihoda/303165301/in/photolist-sMNtX-55viy1-nixYCk-nBEXAR-nBDZ2D-ngM1Yk-7j4hAa-9mEvvj-6xRK8m-7bZgjU-6xRKbA-7zzRUi-6n2xKf-6qeyJN-6qapni-38B1GQ-6n2yG7-6xMAF4-6n2wdd-6xRKcu-6xMAND-6qez5C-6xRK4y-6qeyUY-2jmy-mTi9J6-fwnVxW-nEmj4r-nk8KrG-ngqNgd-7nHL3p-nDptXF-nEko5A-ngSLyB-ngAqjY-ngwfnm-nkcTGv-kU58Mf-ngqEWo-ngSKpx-mTk6yL-mTb4Wr-nivP6D-ngMuXA-ngNLfD-nDpypr-neH7ay-ngJW2j-sQ5wuL-mTi8Kc

Stripped Cotton (and the bloom of a new year)

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Earlier this holiday Mark came with me to Lubbock, Texas.  I went to school there.  In a past life I had family there, up the dusty roads north of town.  My son’s middle name he shares with a West Texas cotton farmer, who used to stare outside for hours looking at rain clouds, wondering if hail would ruin a year’s crop.  I used to sit beside him, next to his old bony shoulders, looking at his aged and wrinkled hands, listening to his stories.

There is nothing like cotton blooms, fields neatly groomed and filled with the bursts of white flowers for miles.  And when the cotton forms the bolls burst open like they are aching for escape.  You want to run down the rows and squeeze them and pluck them like candy because they are, in their own way, beautiful.

We were there in December, which means the strippers ripped off the cotton and there were simply sticks poking up from the dirt, just rows and rows of toothpicks and miles of brown. It was devastatingly ugly – I had forgotten how much so.  Dry and barren with rows of houses in neat little rows.  There was brick as far as the eye could see.  Dull beige brick storefronts with signs like “mountain hideaway” and “50th street caboose.” There are no mountains but there are an abundance of railway trains, chugging and puffing their way past these dusty fields, the miles of land, the grid work of towns amidst a backdrop of sky.   And strangely it was also lovely, in my mind’s nostalgic eye, this place I lived for so long.

Part of me wanted to ignore all of this as part of my past.  After all, I have forged a new trail with new stories.  I have a lover and life partner and future husband whom is both affirming and life-giving.  I love that he is from Pennsylvania, that he has stories of his own filled with snow and fall leaves and beautiful schools like movie sets – stories that I’ll never be a part of. We have forged a trail together that is both together and separate, families that will slowly blend but maintain their own individual identities.

But we went back for a day.  We ate fried cheese at Spanky’s and drove past all the stores and places I used to frequent.  An old bar was torn down, others added.  We wove around the campus with its large Spanish-style architecture and I showed him the steps where our choir sang carols during holidays and where I trudged to history class.  “Look! There’s the library that looks like a radiator.  Here is the dormitory where I spent so many nights.”

He was so patient. He nodded at all the things. He asked what I did on Saturday nights and what it was like to live in this place. We drove and drove, ziz-zagging across the town.  It felt strange to be back there, to re-visit the memories and my past.  But in a way it was wonderful, to expose this part of me to him.

This New Years, I’m putting cotton bolls in my table decorations, as a tribute to the past that forms us, that creates texture in us, and yet doesn’t define us.  It’s good to take time to focus on the past in a meaningful way, not a waste of emotional energy but a targeted reflection of what you’ve been through, and what helps bake you into the person you are.

We returned to Austin, where our life is now.  Where our love now blooms.  I’m cooking filet and we are gathering around the table tonight, as my love language goes.  I’ve decorated it in all white, for a winter that hasn’t quite reached us since it’s hovering around 60 degrees.  But we shall dine and drink and laugh, with the cotton buried in the breaths of babies and in the living and this life that we are building together.

There is so much blooming around us, bursting and then stripping, gathering and harvesting.  But alas the beauty of a new season, a new year, an opportunity to repeat the cycle.  Let this year be a beautiful one, blossoming with love.

 

photo:

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Joy for the Saturated Soul

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I love making French toast.  I crack the eggs into a bowl, where the yolks stand up bright orange and tall. I whisk in the cream, slow and steady.  I use Saigon cinnamon because it has a stronger flavor.  I grate orange zest and watch it fall.  Then I push the bread into the mixture […]

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The Promise Land

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It’s been on my mind lately, this notion of The Promise Land. No matter how ugly your marriage or drug addiction, your future can be washed clean.  You, too, can be happy.  You, too, can be beautiful. You, too, can live inside of a Pottery Barn catalog. It’s all waiting, right around that street, around the bend, […]

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10 Things to Do on a Rainy Day

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(1) Gripe about the weather. This is always a winner, especially at the office.  “How about this rain, eh?” goes a long way to creating zero good will and developing pointless interactions.  Other favorites are “will it ever stop?” and “it’s sure coming down out there.” If you refer to cats and dogs, you’ve simply […]

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Living the American Dream

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If you come from nothing, work hard, and manage to support yourself, maybe you are Living the American Dream. We’ve heard of this illusive dream.  This America. But somewhere between belching out our light beer and clicking on pop-up ads, we’ve forgotten it. People have almost died to get here.  They’ve puked and starved their […]

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Charred ends

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There is an unassuming little joint right off Highway 71 near Bastrop, Texas, in the middle of what used to be called the Piney Woods. The sign reads “Billy’s BBQ,” because the owner is Billy and that just made good damn sense.  We used to go there when we were passing through, a two-meat platter […]

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The Election and Talking Dogs

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This is my one and only political post.  It’s more about talking dogs, really. I read the Mike Rowe story focusing on voters, and not encouraging blind voting based upon flippant celebrity endorsements. I’ve read that and a hundred other stories on how we got ourselves into this hot mess to begin with.  #nevertrump and […]

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Kale is evil

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Forever a culprit of modern society’s overbearing influence to be thin, I’ve been on some form of low-carb diet since college.  I eat normally for a while, then end up loading up on sugar, regret how that makes me look and feel, and end up eating nothing but protein shakes and salami until my pants […]

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Weeds among us

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I was struck today as I sat on my front porch about the number of weeds that proliferated my front yard, mixed in and amongst the grass, swaying in the humid air. I was also thinking of the number of people I know on social media, outspoken and outraged, furious at our country’s politics and […]

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