(Out)Rage. Matthew 12:34.
Our guest artist is Kayla Koterwski. Kayla is a photographer and writer based out of Sioux Falls, SD. She is a creator of content that captures, documents, and expresses the holy, beautiful mess of narrative and story.
“You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” — Matthew 12:34
Upon reading this verse I found my mind immediately drawing back to the words I read for the first time only this past spring, in book number four of the infamously known “Harry Potter” series written by J.K. Rowling, spoken by the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry Headmaster Albus Dumbledore:
“It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to become.”
I pondered over these two lines, their intersections, their differences, for quite some time. Reading each word of the two lines and diving into their contexts, I found myself observing the same realities in Matthew 12:34 that had become painfully and distinctly obvious to me whilst reading the Harry Potter series for the first time this past year — a hobby I had undertaken in the hopes of escaping a grim collection of circumstances in my personal life.
The connecting factor in both works being the hard reality that what it is we grow to be, what creates us and molds us into our truest selves, is our aches. It is the things that drive our knees to the ground, leave us wrapped in balls on the floor, crying in the shower, screaming to the mountains, entirely outraged and too vulnerably human to pretend we are anything else. These things, far too painful and often unexpected, are also that which often spark an unquenchable spark within us, leading to the hot flame making up who it is we become.
Now please do not misunderstand me, I claim not that these things — horrible, painful, and devastating in all their various forms — are somehow acceptable. They are not. The pains of this world are far too much. It was with ferocity that I learned the cliché phrase of “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle” with which we so often respond to tragedy is a lie. Everyday on this planet the ground shakes below our feet, children die, people are abused and worth diminished for the most vile of reasons. Life hurts, a lot. The ache piles up, and far too often it does so seemingly all at once and it is too damn much.
So may it be clear while I believe with my whole being in the ways such pain can be formative, by no means mistake it to mean that I believe such circumstances should ever be considered acceptable. What makes these things formative, what makes them holy, is not their ugly-ness. It is not the fabled excuse that they exist as the result of some divine plan. It is instead, however, the nature of how we experience them — a lack of ability to do anything but exist in our most vulnerable forms, in our utter human-ness, weepy, angry, numb, and a whole other collection of synonyms or lack thereof that exist to express the existence of struggle — that makes them holy.
At first read Matthew 12:34 leaves one to perceive that unless we are pure of emotion and language we must be of small worth. But if we understand the heart to be what is raw, beautiful, and hard instead of what is perfect or pure, we begin to understand that language should be a reflection of the real and not some strangled attempt at perfection.
Identity is a complex thing, formed by a collection of life circumstances, systematic realities, multiple bodies and relationships, and a distinct sense of self developed over a lifetime. Who is this “brood of vipers”? Is it the assumed marginalized, cursed, and outcast? Or is it those whom collectively and therefore also individually in their attempts at perfection become leaders without cause, oppressors without recognition, and humans without an understanding of identity and the complexity of intersecting reality?
We were not made to be perfect beings, we were made good, and that, in all our mess and ache and trial, is what we shall be. That goodness comes not without cost, in our inherent worth comes the call to gather up the things that make us up and to go where it is our vocation calls us; to deal with the hard, raw, real, and unmistakably holy.