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Be Angry, but Don't Blow It!Maintaining Your Passion Without Losing Your Cool
By Lisa Bevere
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2000 Lisa Bevere
All right reserved.
Chapter OneBroken Windows
The year was 1988 and John and I were in a heated discussion. So heated, in fact, I had ceased to speak. After clamping my mouth firmly shut for fear of what might come out, I turned my back to John and frantically threw myself into drying the dishes. I could feel my temperature rising as my breathing became deeper and more obvious until it sounded similar to what I had experienced during my labor. I had to stay in control. I couldn't allow the boiling torrent of angry words to gush unrestrained from my lips and drown my husband—no matter how upset I was with him.
John saw my silence from a very different perspective, though. He felt I was serving him the dreaded silent treatment. So he tried to draw me out of it with different forms of persuasion. When these failed he tried provocation.
All of a sudden it worked. I looked down at the plate in my hand. It was an unbreakable salad plate. As if in slow motion, I pivoted like a skilled discus thrower and released the plate. I watched helplessly as it flew through the air, wondering how it had become airborne and wishing I could somehow snatch it back. It glided purposefully and directly for my husband's head. John ducked to one side, escaping what appeared to be potential decapitation, and the plate soared on in an arc. Now it was far beyond the breakfast bar, where John stood in shock, and continued without wavering to span the length of the living room. Could it possibly be gaining speed? I wondered. I knew I couldn't even throw a Frisbee, yet here it was, sailing smoothly through the air without even a wobble.
The sound of breaking glass snapped me back to reality. I stared in disbelief at our picture window, which was now anything but one. It was a frame holding broken glass. I had missed the bottom part that held the screen and shattered the entire upper panel of glass. There was a moment of silence as we both stared at the window.
John was the first to break the silence. "I can't believe you threw that plate at me."
I had to agree. I found it hard to believe as well. But I obviously had, and it was done now.
We both moved cautiously toward the broken window. The cool January wind blew in to greet us. Down below our second floor apartment, lying motionless on the grass, was a lone white plate.
"I'll go get it," I muttered.
I slipped on my shoes and cautiously opened our door, hoping none of our neighbors had observed my outburst. The gusting Florida wind whipped my hair against my face. I slithered down the stairs, looking both ways, before I crept onto the common lawn. The plate was surrounded by slivers of broken glass from the window above. I glanced up to see if John or anyone else happened to be watching from their windows, but all I saw were reflections of a gray, dim sky. I brushed off the plate and snatched it close as I ran up the stairway between the buildings that now seemed more like a wind tunnel. I felt as if the wind itself were accusing me. It knew the truth, and I welcomed its harsh condemnation. I deserved it.
Again inside I looked at John. "I got the plate ... it's not broken," I offered, holding it up for him to see as if it was some sort of consolation.
"You know I am going to tell them the truth, Lisa," he quietly assured me. "I am going to have to call maintenance and tell them my wife threw a plate at me, missed, and broke the window."
I nodded passively. All the rage was gone and only shame remained. "I know you will, but I am not going to be here when you tell them. I'm going to the store, so go ahead and call them now."
The silence was heavy and unnerving in contrast to the loud and heated exchange of words just a few moments before. I was amazed our sweet two-year-old son had slept through all of it. I hurried away from the scene of the crime.
Alone in our car I heaved a heavy sigh of desperation. As I turned the ignition, Christian worship music filled the silence, but it seemed hollow and not for me. I turned it off and let the stillness shroud me again. I didn't want anything to comfort or console me. I wanted harsh reality. I pulled out of the driveway and decided to drive for a while before going to the store. I didn't want to chance a meeting with the maintenance man. What would he think? Here stands the next Lizzy Borden, a future ax murderer.
I decided to entertain shame and guilt as a form of punishment. I began to imagine the absolutely worst possible consequences. Perhaps a newspaper headline would be in order: "Youth Pastor's Enraged Wife Breaks Window at Local Apartment Complex." Would my husband be fired because of my behavior? Or even worse, what if it extended beyond John and me? What if the media seized the opportunity to denounce the Christian population of Orlando?
I didn't feel I had the right to pray God would somehow intervene on my behalf to cover this whole thing, but perhaps He would on behalf of the Christian community. I began to intercede on their behalf.
"Please God, for the sake of my church, the youth group, my husband, and all the Christians in Orlando, please do something. Nothing is too difficult for You. I know I don't deserve this intervention; don't do it for me, do it for everyone else!" I pleaded repeatedly.
I was honestly terrified the vivid images of my wild imagination might become painful realities. I imagined my next walk down the aisle of the church. I could almost see the disappointed looks and pointing fingers. I guessed at the whispers of shock as well as the knowing nods of others. "I always knew she had a problem with anger ... the Spirit showed me," women would assure one another. Perhaps I would need to apologize to the entire congregation. Yet I feared my shame would still remain. How would my new friends look at me? Surely they would turn away from me. I imagined their husbands warning them in the privacy of their bedrooms to stay away from me. After all, the Bible warns us not to associate with an angry man—how much more an angry pastor's wife?
Hot tears now streaked my face. I stopped the car and composed myself before I went into the store. Surely there was no escape from what I had done. My husband wouldn't lie, and I didn't want him to. Maybe it wouldn't make the cover of the Orlando paper, but some consequence was inevitable. I resigned myself to this and admitted I deserved to suffer some sort of something. I only hoped I could recover from it when it was all over.
I found it hard to shop. I couldn't even remember what we really needed. I wandered aimlessly through the store. Our food budget was so tight, I did not have the liberty of purchasing food I already had or did not need. I wished I had made a shopping list. I felt like my head was in a fog. I managed to grab the few items I was certain we needed and headed back to the solitude of the car. The sun was setting now. Perhaps I could creep back in under a cover of darkness. I drove home and sat in the car for a while, watching for anyone leaving our apartment building. It was nearly six o'clock when I realized the maintenance man was probably off duty.
I grabbed the groceries and headed up the stairs. I knocked, then opened the unlocked door. I immediately noticed the plastic covering the gaping window; it billowed in and out as if it were breathing. I looked for John, dreading whatever he might tell me but ready to hear it nevertheless.
"What did he say?" I asked tentatively.
"All I can say is that God must really love you or you must have really prayed," John said, but there was no smile on his face.
"Why, what happened?" I probed.
"Well, I told you I was going to tell the truth," John began, "but it was really weird. When the maintenance guy came, Addison was at the door to greet him. He walked over to the sofa and pulled it forward from the window. He said, 'Wow, what happened here?' Then he bent over and put his hand up. 'Say no more,' he said, holding out a metal car of our son's. 'I have a two-year-old myself. We will replace the window tomorrow free of charge.' I started to say something but he stopped me again. 'Don't worry ... this stuff happens. Just put up some plastic to keep out the bugs.' And he was out the door. I think he was in a hurry to go home for the night."
I sat down in shock. Was it possible that God had done this for me? No, He had done it for all the other reasons. Whatever the reason, it was now over and done with. My two-year-old son had taken the rap for the window. I began to feel the shame lift from my shoulders. I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry with relief. None of my fears would become a reality.
I apologized again to my husband. But I have to admit, that night as I lay in bed I wondered if maybe God had covered me since my husband was not willing to. After all, John shouldn't have provoked me. It wasn't as if I broke windows every day. It was an isolated incident. God had forgiven me, or He wouldn't have covered it so amazingly. I shouldn't have thrown the plate ... but John shouldn't have pushed me into it. I followed this line of reasoning until I fell asleep under the blanket of self-justification and righteousness. Gone was my repentance. Yes I would be more careful in the future ... but, so should John.
I had reasoned away a valuable lesson. It would be more than a year before my anger would cost me enough to seek true repentance.
A Cry for Help
Perhaps you have never broken a physical window. But there is a trail of shattered dreams and relationships. The mere fact you now hold this book means you're searching for the right balance in your life. You want to live a passionate yet godly life. Maybe you don't vent your rage—maybe you hold it in. It is still a source of destruction ... self-destruction. Maybe you feel as though you are a habitation of broken windows. Angry bricks have been thrown and the cold winds have blown through and extinguished your passion and hope. I believe there is healing available for you.
Anger in and of itself is not wrong, but rage and fury escalate it into the dimension of the destructive. It is in the shadow and shame of this that we cry out for help. It is my prayer that you will somehow learn from my mistakes and grow to another level in your relationships, first with God and then with others.
I come to You in the precious name of Jesus. Lord, mend the broken windows of my life. I am more interested in truth than appearances. I want the light of Your Word to search my heart and to know me. I want truth in my innermost being. I want to walk in freedom free from shame and guilt. Lord, instruct me in Your ways that I might walk in them. Pour out Your love that covers. Empower me with Your grace to submit to the truths that will set me free and allow You to be glorified in every area of my life.
Chapter TwoBe Angry and Sin Not
The first part of Ephesians 4:26 is easy enough: Be angry. Most of us can accomplish this without even trying. It happens without warning. Someone cuts us off on the highway and careless words are hurled into the air, never to be retrieved. But more about that later. This verse seems at first a contradiction. It clearly grants us the right to feel anger. Be angry. There is not even a preceding disclaimer, like "If you absolutely have to get angry, then okay ... be angry." Just a simple Be angry. The NIV translation reads, "In your anger do not sin." It seems to further validate the experience of anger, assuring us there will be times of anger, but telling us not to sin during them.
The Emotion of Anger
God gives us permission to be angry. He knows and understands man's inborn capacity for anger. It is an emotion He also is familiar with. It is recognized in the frustrated cry of the smallest infant as well as the patriot's outcry against injustice. It is heard in the agonized weeping of parents who grieve over the lost life of a child and the silent tremor of a grieving grandparent.
Anger is as valid a human emotion as joy, sorrow, faith, and fear. God tells us, Be angry, because it is okay to be upset. Even God gets angry—as a matter of fact, quite frequently. He was repeatedly angry with His chosen people. The Old Testament records several hundred references of His anger with Israel and other nations.
When an emotion is suppressed because it is not validated, it will eventually be expressed inappropriately. Conversely, if an emotion is expressed without restraint then sin will follow upon its heels. God Himself validates human anger. Yet most of us do not even understand anger. Is it throwing things and yelling and screaming at our loved ones? Is it holding a grudge over treacherous treatment? No, these are examples of inappropriate expressions of anger. There is a fine line between anger and sin.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines anger as "strong usually temporary displeasure without specifying manner of expression."
It is okay to feel intense or strong displeasure over an event or at someone's actions. Displeasure encompasses disapproval, dislike, and annoyance. These feelings are common to all of us and may be daily occurrences. This definition of anger does not provide a specific outlet or manner for the expression of anger. I believe this is because there are varied appropriate reactions and recourses to the corresponding offense. The responses would also vary with individual factors, such as age, personality, position, and place. Much more is expected of an adult in public than of a toddler. Likewise, the expectation is greater of those in authority or leadership. Authority figures shouldn't use position to vent their emotions or further their agendas. It is important for them to distance themselves from any personal offense long enough to become conscious of how it might affect those under their care or guidance.
For example, when I was a young, single heathen girl, I was quite vocal when it came to other drivers who offended me. I would volunteer my rating of their driving ability punctuated with a collection of explicit and colorful words. Then I became a Christian and learned the power of my words, how they bless or curse others. I also had the experience of being in a car with a godly woman when someone suddenly cut her off. I glanced over, watching for her response. She didn't cuss or even frown but gently smiled and waved as though to invite them to cut her off again. She turned to me with the comment, "We'll just sow a seed of kindness."
I tried to immediately pattern some of her behavior ... well, at least I stopped cussing and yelling out the window. I still tended to grit my teeth and say things like, "Come on, sweetheart. I don't have all day. Pull out there ... no one's going to hurt you!" I was given to honking instructively (for the safety of others of course). Then I became married with children.
I was no longer as comfortable talking to cars that couldn't hear me. Especially when I noticed my sweet sons following suit. They had taken up the defense of their mother against wayward drivers. They put on their best grumpy faces and yelled from their car seats in the backseat, then glanced forward for my approval. "He needs to learn how to drive! Right, Mom?" they'd cheer triumphantly.
Oops! Now my displeasure needed a different avenue of expression. It now affected and influenced others. My little ones were copying me, and I no longer enjoyed the privilege of yelling at strangers (if it ever truly was mine in the first place). For the future safety and sanity of my children I needed to model constructive displeasure. I had to develop defensive rather than offensive driving skills. Now, instead of attacking the other drivers verbally, I try to teach my children, what was unsafe about their driving and how to respond to it. When a semi is barreling down on me, I say something like, "Maybe this guy is upset or in a hurry.
We'll just get out of his way." Then I change lanes. I have to admit, though, I still do not invite others to cut me off.
Let's look again at the definition of anger: "strong usually temporary displeasure without specifying manner of expression." It encompasses the word temporary, which means "momentary, passing, short-lived, or fleeting." Therefore, anger by definition should be brief and transitory, not drawn out and dangerous. Too frequently we live in a constant state of flare-up punctuated by brief interludes of happiness. God models the healthy type of anger for us: "For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime" (Ps. 30:5 NIV).
Excerpted from Be Angry, but Don't Blow It! by Lisa Bevere Copyright © 2000 by Lisa Bevere. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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