I just overheard a mom telling her children to shut the “f” up. My first reaction, reasonably, was horror. Then I let Jesus pretty immediately remind me that while my language isn’t as colorful, that is pretty much what I have communicated to them this week. I have done it with a stomp on the floor (yes, much like a child less mature than my own) or even once this week, a slam of the door when I gave myself time out. But I am no more honorable than the angry lady I overheard. That finger pointing at her definitely had four pointing back at me.
So what is it about motherhood and anger? Really, it isn’t just mothers. Or in traffic when someone cuts in front of another driver, either intentionally or absent mindedly, their angry horn does the yelling. A grocery story check out line is another place to overhears loud, exasperated sighs because the clerk isn’t going fast enough. Have you ever been in a location where a school field trip was taking place? There is always some lady yelling at some group of kids as her last hope of regaining control. That must be it. Control. It is more than just wanting what I want when I want it. I want to be wanted also. I think that is at the heart of the anger. When I’m cut off in traffic it is offensive because I feel personally disregarded or even shoved aside. When a clerk or other vendor doesn’t appear to be concerned about my time or even my presence, I feel minimized and insignificant. And when my children or husband or neighbor or other family member directly defy my desires, is there any stronger way to say, “You don’t matter to me!”
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. James 4:1-3
So, after I finished my last post about God’s love being needed and that He would provide even though I was struggling with frustration and anger, guess what I did? No, I did not get up from the computer, hug my children and join them in a dance of joy and peace. The minute I finished a complaint was issued from the sofa behind me and I lost it. I mean, I am woman hear me roar came into being. “I’M DONE!” I yelled at my two stunned older children, then I dramatically (as mentioned here in the first paragraph) slammed the door and went straight to my bed and hid under the comforter. They soon came and softly said, “I’m sorry Mommy.” But of course, I had to offer the bigger apology…which came later in the day because I wasn’t ready to be sorry yet. (:
So, before the ability to be truly sorry came, I had to deal with the fact that time in Scripture or a time of listening to beautiful Christian music or a nap or night of sleep did not, in fact, change my heart. No “new attitude” or “new perspective” could accomplish what needed to take place. And in those moments of anger I also felt the heavy weight of condemnation. I have the heart of a monster and the monster seems to be winning. I have ruined my relationship with my children and have modeled for them the absolutely wrong way to handle frustration (yelling and slamming doors in this case, but giving into the heat of anger or desire for control is a dangerous road no matter how it plays out). Condemnation feels very permanent. Conflict, for me, always includes condemnation. No matter who is right, everyone loses in conflict. Conflict divides. Conflict injures. Conflict sucks life out of those involved.
Condemnation is very permanent and devastating. Condemnation is a dead end, end of sentence and end of story. Because of the condemnation inherent in conflict, I like to avoid conflict by denial or self-defense so that I also can avoid condemnation. Interestingly, the person and work of Jesus tells me something I have to face about condemnation, and therefore conflict:
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. Col. 2:13-14 All have sinned and fallen short…”when I was dead” and “the charge of my legal indebtedness which stood against me and condemned me” both speak to that reality. Condemnation can’t be avoided or denied or corrected by the condemned. Here is where this is headed to hope and very good news: Because my condemnation is the starting place for redemption, it is no longer the end of the story or the devastating final death blow. This means that while my anger rightfully condemns me, the person and work of Jesus meets me in my sin and moves me through it to reconciliation. That means I don’t throw in the towel and give up. It means there is hope that no matter how sick my heart is, total regeneration is coming and I will get to enjoy small tastes of that promise even now.
It also means I have to trust God with that and not my own eyes. It means that this hope isnt’ placed in my getting up from computer with blue birds singing on my shoulder (do blue birds actually sing?) and never again letting my frustrations get the best of me. It does mean that there is greater life offered to me through repentance and a strengthening of my relationship with my children, or the store clerk or the neighbor when I ask for forgiveness and we move through the conflict to genuine reconciliation. Love and grace do not mean never having to say I’m sorry. They mean that even if I have to say it again and again and again, there is hope for restoration and that God’s hand of redemption is not shocked or disabled but is at work even when I feel powerless. He can pick up the weight of my sin which is crushing me. And unlike the people in traffic or the grocery store or standing with arms crossed looking up at me saying no in my own home, He regards me, He sees my helpless estate and by grace, He cherishes me there.
Does this mean it is fine for Ellie to hit Chad when she is frustrated or for Chad to punch his sister because even that is within God’s redemption? Of course not. But it does mean they can get off the tightrope in my eyes of either being juvenille dilenquents who are destined for prison or perfect angels who act like gentle 80 year olds at the ages of 6 and 8. It means there is freedom to get it all wrong, to respond totally inappropriately and to fail miserably without it being a game ending, career ending, hopeless and tragic dead end of condemnation. Grace means that my only hope isn’t it getting it all right the first time or 31st time. Grace means I rest in His righteousness, in His perfect love of those I hurt, in His power to reconcile when I am out of strength to do the right thing, and in His promise to make all things new. And sometimes, this process of growing my faith requires that I be shown just how dependent upon it I really am.
‘This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.’ Haggai 2:5