Shose is a champion for social justice, a motivational speaker, a worship leader, singer/songwriter whose vocational goal is to build tools and curricula for community transformation. She is a proud Kenyan and the co-founder of an ecumenical worship movement known as Praise Avenue. A full time minister for the last six years, Shose has spent much of her life in the church. Her interests in sustainable development and church and community collaboration, coupled with her love for international engagement, brings a global viewpoint to the seminary experience.
[Shose offers a chilling story of anger, rage, and how one decision to offer grace at the height of a violent situation changed her life forever. *This post has some triggers of violence and domestic abuse. Please be advised.*]
When I was younger, I had a mean streak that would make even the boldest of lions run scared. I was feisty, cantankerous, swore like a sailor and was proud to have the uncanny ability to reduce even the most confident of people to tears with my razor-sharp words. It was a badge of honor, a talisman I wore for everyone to see. It said: “Keep Out! Shut up! Don’t Ask! No Entry!” — all the things that would keep people as far away from my aching heart as they could be. (God forbid that they have access to it.)
So I built a wall. It was thick and high, with an electrified fence around it so live that anything could set me off.
I was a ticking time bomb, and many who knew me didn’t understand why this was.
Like many kids from a broken home, I was the one who had to bear the bulk of the burden, the remnants of the rage, the bruises inflicted by the battering ram of a disintegrating relationship and most notably, the pain of the past. I was the eldest child, the one who was born when love was not a memory, long before the cheating began, before the abuse and before the forgotten promises — I was that child. Now when everything fell apart, I was the one trying to hold it together. It became my responsibility. I had to remind the younger kids about the good times… the ones they were too young to remember. I had to remind them of days when our dad had sung to them in my mom’s belly, had to remind them of times when he had come to school during our lunch break just because he missed us and remind them of times when our mom had spoken so proudly of this man – she had done everything in her power to make him smile.
But how could I? Those people were gone.
They had been replaced by ghoulish representations of their former persons who now dwelled in misery, infidelity, treachery, bitterness, and of course, anger.
And since the only cure for contempt is counter-contempt (H.L. Mencken), the anger around me and within me festered and grew. It became a load that I carried willingly like an albatross hovering over the circumstances of life.
A popular African saying goes: “When two heifers engage in battle, it is the grass that suffers”. My anger had a source and had also found a resting place.
I remember one incident when I found myself in the middle of it all. They were fighting again — and I heard them. It was unbearable, my sister was crying – he wanted to hurt my brother – she tried to stop him and he pushed her down the steps. My blood pounded in my ears; I was losing focus.
For some reason, I felt like it was an outer body experience as I fought and struggled to go up the stairs. I didn’t even come to until I heard her screaming and begging.
I was standing over him and there was a knife in my hands.
He was taunting… my breathing was even now – I saw everything clearly, and yet not so clearly — everything seemed to make sense in that one moment. This was the best way. He would be out of our lives forever. She would stop crying… and we… we would be free.
“Do it!” he yelled… and I was suddenly faced with the decision that many children in abusive homes have come to at one point or another. I didn’t care in that moment, whether he was my father or not. I just wanted to be free and in that moment I had an opportunity to be.
To truncate the tediousness of a long story – I didn’t stab my father, but that night; a journey began for me that changed my life totally.
I was tired of being ruled by something other than myself. I was tired of running at my anger’s every beck and call. I was fed up that I didn’t stand a chance against it, that I was weak and powerless. But most of all, I was exhausted. I was tired of being angry. So I made a decision, it was a long and arduous journey, don’t be mistaken — I had to battle with myself, break relationships, train my emotions and beat my flesh. I prayed, I fasted, and I gave myself over to God. The only one who could understand how and when I was going to have the strength to overcome this beast within me.
How did I do it?
- I spoke the truth – I let them know the effect the situation had on me
- I let myself be angry at the situation
- I refused to let my anger to lead me to sin
Seminary for me has been a continuation of that journey; it is in seeking God and searching for truth that I found myself at this door. Not just for myself for everyone that is bound in some way or another by their circumstances. Many are born into situations outside of their control, and even more grow into environments that only yield poisonous fruit and painful harvest. Knowing that there is One who came to give them life in abundance is an old tragic love song playing on a radio whose reception is weak and crackling. Being in ministry opened my eyes to kids like me, to parents like mine, to young adults with unfulfilled dreams, to countries with marginalized populations, to nations and peoples in bondage, to a world crying out for a savior. For the Savior.
So now? Now I use my anger – I channel it to fuel my passion. I let the situation anger me just enough to think about it, to write about it, to talk about it and to do something about it. Then I don’t let the sun go down on my anger … I never want to lose an opportunity, when it comes by – because I was too angry to notice.
Ephesians 4: 25-27 Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another. BE ANGRY, and yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.
–Shose (Sheila) Otieno