This morning I checked social media where I saw that people in a parenting group I belong to had responded to my story about one of my kids and an upsetting situation we had faced. Most comments were supportive and encouraging or giving some advice pertaining to teens and screens, one of the most contentious issues we face in our house right now.
Then I read one response… and my blood pressure was launched through the roof. It was more of a ‘shame on you’ response to my plea for help in a stressful situation. I was furious. I was livid. I began to type back a response, one that dripped full of sarcasm about how helpful her ‘uncompassionate’ and ‘judgemental’ response had been. As I typed, my hands were shaking – that is how angry I was feeling. As I neared the end of my planned response, I was suddenly reminded of a verse in a devotional by Lectio 365 that I had listened to this week:
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires…” (James 1:19-20)
The author continues: “In the heat of the moment all anger feels righteous! … If I am serious about loving others and seeking justice, I must slow down and check my own sinfulness. Only then can I respond in ways that bring righteousness….
“Lord, forgive me for indulging in knee-jerk reactions that feel like righteousness, but which are more about my ego. When my buttons are pushed, teach me to respond as You do – being slow to anger.”
“How often to I feel the need to ‘get in first’ or to have the last word in an argument either in person or online? Often, I’m not ‘quick to listen’. Sometimes, I’m not really listening at all to the person I am in disagreement with. I’m too busy formulating clever replies. What would happen if I ‘choose to lose’ in these situations, to be ‘quicker to listen’ rather than speak or defend myself?”
Ok…so, was this devo written for me or what??
The amazing thing is, that the Holy Spirit, in the middle of my emotional tantrum of rage, was able to break through and remind me of this. (Seriously… that is bordering on ‘miracle’ here, friends! ) Often anger like that indicates, as the author suggests, that my ego is involved. I’m learning that when my ego, or my false self, strives to protect its own interests, it is my ego that wants to be in control, rather than allowing the gentle love of God to be in control.
In that moment, I had a choice.
Press ‘post’ on my sarcastic reply to this nasty, hurtful woman who had completely dissed my stressful request for help and understanding? Or, take a moment, pause, breathe… and not reply.
I sensed the struggle within. It was hard! I was so close to pushing ‘post’. But the words about ‘choose to lose’ were stuck in my mind. Could I put aside my anger and ‘choose to lose’? For the sake of Jesus, who lives inside me and the Holy Spirit who reminded me in that moment what it looks like to submit to His will?
It is a hard thing to submit our self-centered wills to the will of the Father. It is hard to walk the road of looking like Jesus. Y’all, I am no saint here!!
But I am reminded of Jesus’ words in John 13:38 “Will you really lay down your life for me?” My question when I reflected on this was, “Well, what does this look like in practical terms?” And then I thought of this moment. The moment when I had a choice between posting angry, sarcastic words to someone who had completely hurt me. Or… backing off, backing down, bringing my hurt and anger before God instead.
I chose not to press ‘post’ and I moved on to something else.
I actually came back to the post after I had cooled down a bit and realized that underneath my anger was… hurt. In my ego-driven rage, I had wanted to hurt her with an equally nasty response. However, in realizing that hurt was under my anger, I was able to compose a calmer response, in which I also realized that underneath the anger at one of my kids was actually fear about my kids making poor or unhealthy choices.
I am incredibly thankful to God for speaking to me this morning in the middle of my ego-rage-tantrum-storm. And I’m thankful that in the moments following my choice, I was able to see the other emotions that were underneath the anger. These emotions, my fear and my hurt, I bring before God. I sit with them in the Presence of my loving Jesus who surrounds me with his Love no matter what type of storm I find myself in.