I remember standing in front of an audience many years back. I had mulled for quite some time about what I would say that night. I prefer to speak from the heart. Preconceived speeches seem less authentic. 

So when I stepped on the stage, I never anticipated the words that would roll off my tongue so freely. As I looked over the sanctuary of that pew lined church, I saw faces much like mine; faces that carried pain and anguish. I saw eyes that carried the weight of years of worry and fear. I also saw smiles and kindness; great love and compassion. What I could not see was the silent rage that boiled under the surface of many raging hearts. I had long ago turned my own inward and years of doing so had taken a toll; one that I was unaware of at the time. 

Years of abuse and rejection had left me feeling empty and alone. The message I was about to speak would effect many lives that night, including mine. 

As a young girl I saw many things that I did not understand. I saw grown ups screaming at each other, sometimes screaming at me. I saw hands around my momma’s neck. I watched her push a burning couch out the door on her own, because an angry boyfriend had lit it on fire in the wee hours of the night. 

During all these moments, I see myself way back then. I see the little girl in me staring in silence. She never flinches, and her face looks blank. Maybe she is numb now, or maybe she doesn’t know there is a sea of rage building inside her little body. 

I imagine all these moments left a mark on my soul. I imagine that every time she couldn’t answer the door or speak the truth, she swallowed down a fresh dose of pain. I imagine that every time she couldn’t express her feelings, she died a little more inside. It must have been tough, every wound festering into bitter, hard anger. I watched as the little girl’s heart turned to stone.

As the words continued to flow onto the mic and into the ears of the  audience, I just let go. This was divine; age old words illuminating darkness. Light poured fortb into the hungry hearts of those listening, and light poured into my own heart. 

All the pain I carried from years of abuse and trauma, became real in that moment. I understood what “black rage” was. I could understand why people had snapped in an instant after years of abuse and taken their lover’s life. In fact I had eaten with these women. I had laughed and cried with them. They didn’t look like monsters and they certainly didn’t behave as brute beasts. No, these were grandmothers and mothers, daughters and sisters. They were women who loved and fell in love. They were women who had shared a few laughs with friends under a boardwalk sunset. They came from all walks of life and their stories had touched me to the core. I would remember them and in spite of the hurt they had endured over the years, I would remember their stories. I would remember to cherish the good I saw, because we all have the propensity to become defined by our twisted and fallen nature.

Sharing this message opened my eyes and as I prayed for the healing of others, my soul started healing. It has been years since I shared that message, but I still remember a handful of faces in particular. They stood out. I still recall the response and how in shock I was that so many people identified with rage; that angry black rage that consumes you and threatens to swallow you up. 

I knew that I cared about people. I knew that I didn’t want to hurt people and I didn’t want to spend my life apologizing for lashing out with hateful, spite filled words. I certainly didn’t want to cause another to feel the pain that I had.

At first it was effort and I failed a lot. Now it is not so much effort and I still fail from time time.  It is a journey and on the path you must learn to come face to face with the anger and the pain. Blocking it out, “stuffing” and medicating won’t help, and in the end you find yourself more war torn than before. 

My pivotal moment came last winter. As I sat in front of the wood stove and watched the flames lick against the walls of the furnace, the embers popped and crackled peacefully in my ears. 

I had spent the last year facing fears and it became clear to me in that moment that fire was a foreign element. I had a moment of clarity. Fire to me was a representation of power, anger and passion. It was strong and wild, cutting through forests and leaving a path of ashen destruction in its wake. Yet, I realized that fire was also cleansing. It brought new life, and it provided warmth for our cozy home. It was that day I embraced the fire. I let it warm my body and flow through my pores. I allowed it to move freely and you know what? It didn’t consume me. That fire is still burning and I’m glad. It has given me a new strength and a fierce tenacity not previously found. It has gifted me with a passion that burns brightly for all that I love. It forges a path and makes way for growth. It’s blazing heat provides light for all those I meet and it burns up every fear and doubt that gets in my way. I hope that you can find your fire too. As for me.. I’m lit!

Written by: Tiffany Jackson

Photography courtesy of: Bobbie Osborne