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Our Inner Eyjafjallajokull

In the wake of the eruption of a volcano in Iceland that shut down air traffic over Europe in 2010, author and speaker Gordon MacDonald writes:

I—and millions more—had never heard of Eyjafjallajokull, the Icelandic volcano, until it blew up a few days ago and belched ash and dirty ice into the atmosphere at a rate of 750 tons per second. Now, days later, this ugly volcanic "garbage" floats over much of Europe and is the cause of thousands of flight cancellations. Entire national economies are being humbled by this unexpected event ….
Eyjafjallajokull is a symbol of the many volcanoes, some active, some dormant, that mark the landscape of the human spirit—that inner space that is as large in its unique dimension as is outer space.
These interior Eyjafjallajokulls of varying sizes can erupt when one least expects it: in traffic, in a routine conversation when disagreement rises, in a moment when someone denies us something we believe we deserve.
In such moments we find ourselves trembling with subterranean emotion. We want to explode, to claim what we think is ours, to compel the other person to back down and get what he has coming. We become single-minded in thinking of every reason we are right and other person is wrong ….
Today Eyjafjallajokull reminds me of myself. It is a visual rebuke to me.
I grew up thinking I was a pretty calm person and that it was others—not me—who had anger issues. They might have a volcano inside of them, but my interior space, I believed, was an oasis of peace and order. It wasn't that I never experienced the sensations of strong hurt and irritability. But my habit was to deny such feelings, to assume I was probably wrong, that it was maturity to retreat in times of conflict and say nothing. My wife, Gail, once pointed out to me that while I often said nothing in such moments, the glare on my face told a more accurate story of my inner disposition.
Then one day I discovered Eyjafjallajokull within myself. I became embroiled in a disagreement that caused feelings to ignite in ways I'd never experienced before. All I can say is that I felt the volcanic power of rage. That disagreement captured my mind, and for many days I could hardly think of anything else but my desire to be vindicated and for the other party to be appropriately punished.
The crazy thing about that conflict so long ago is that I can no longer even remember what the issue was or how it managed to gain such control over me. Perhaps it was because I had so little experience in dealing frankly with anger and its effects, but when the volcano inside of me blew, it brought my life, for all practical purposes, to a halt, much as the real Eyjafjallajokull has paralyzed northern Europe. I was surprised, amazed at myself: all of this meanness that suddenly came from who-knows-where. …
That memorable episode of conflict so many years ago became an important moment of self-discovery in my life. The other person in the engagement and the issue itself became insignificant. What really needed to be dealt with was me and the rather large inventory of small and large matters I had simply stuffed and never dealt with. I realized I had some repenting and forgiving to do. I had to become a "volcanologist" of the spirit, a student of the energy of anger within me: where it came from, how it expressed itself, and how it needed to be processed into something more in alignment with the grace and mercy Jesus so aptly modeled.
I have not fully mastered this area of life (could anyone in the lifetime allotted to us?), but I have learned to spot the uprisings of feelings that can eventually morph into needless anger. I've learned what issues are likely to create eruptions in me. And I've acquired a bit of facility in harnessing healthy anger and directing it into some creative, hopefully Christ-like, expression.

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