Lessons from the 1980s
The Lord has interesting ways of exposing the next area of sin He wants to deal with in my life. One day when I was coming home from teaching, I walked up the driveway to our house and noticed that there was something different about our car. I looked more closely and saw that the pinstripes I’d bought a few days before had been put on.
Deep inside me the heat of anger began to rise. I had been looking forward to putting these pinstripes on the car myself, and now that pleasure had been taken from me. Plus it hadn’t been done that well; some of the stripes were a bit wavy.
I stormed into the house, “Who put those pinstripes on the car?!!!” I demanded loudly.
“I did,” said Josh, cringing a bit, surprised at my anger. “Don’t they look nice?”
“Yes they do, but I wanted to put them on! And they’re not straight!” I was now shouting. “When are you going to learn to ask before doing things?” I said, shaking my finger at Josh.
Poor Josh had inadvertently tapped into my reservoir of anger, stored up from all my frustrations, disappointments, unpleasant encounters, worry, tiredness and pride. He unknowingly pushed the button and out it all came.
This was not the first time such angry outbursts had happened in our home; they were all too frequent in my life. Sometimes I took out my frustration on things. I’d demolished more than one basket by punching it, and had ruined Barbara’s iron by slamming it down on the table.
Now it was time to deal with my anger. The Lord knew that difficult times lay ahead and He needed to prepare me for them. He was ready to free me from the grip that anger had on my life and this “pinstripe” incident was just the thing He used to pin me down.
After I had calmed down and apologized to Josh, he said, “That’s ok, Dad, we all make mistakes!” Here he was, being the adult while I was playing the child’s role in venting my selfish emotions! That brought me up short.
I thought of how often I’ve said to someone, “You made me angry!” But the reality is that the other person simply revealed my own selfish, idol-worshiping, ungodly heart. I had already “made myself angry” with a wrong response to previous situations, and now it had leaked over into this one.
The Lord used several things to rescue me from this pit of anger. First, He gave me a mental picture, a metaphor of how I ended up with these outbursts of anger. My soul is like a clear, empty tea glass. As I go through my day, negative events put in drops of disappointment, frustration, unhappiness and impatience into that glass.
Soon it is full of acidic self-centered, unprocessed anger. So when someone “bumps” into me by doing something I don’t like, what spills over onto them from the glass is this acid. They get a reaction much bigger than the situation warrants.
Some people are better than others at balancing their tea glass to keep it from spilling: hiding their anger, stuffing it, or denying it. But it eventually comes out in some way. I was not good at keeping it balanced and tended to spill it over on others too often.
However, the Lord showed me that if, at the end of the day, I take the tea glass of my soul and pour out all the anger acid that has accumulated, it is then clean and empty, ready to be filled with the Holy Spirit for a new day
The Lord taught me to do this through journaling, lifting my soul to God. Often I did not know what was bothering me when I felt negative and pressured, but as I began to write about my emotions in my journal, out came things that I’d forgotten, or hadn’t realized were affecting me.
Sometimes a chance word from someone had hurt me and I needed to go to the Lord about that, first expressing my anger in my journal, and then going on to process my anger. This meant forgiving the person, praising God for allowing the incident and applying some Scripture that brought me both comfort and perspective. After that, with my soul empty of resentment, I would be ready for a good night’s sleep.
At the beginning of the each day, during my quiet time, I could fill the clean and emptied tea glass of my soul with the Word and the Holy Spirit. Then, when I was “bumped” by others during the day, what would spill over on them was the grace of God. I was slow at learning this, but continual journaling took me step by step in the right direction.