Monday, February 28, 2011

Anger Management

So I normally try to keep our blog very interesting and upbeat. Zach and I are both really positive people so talking about something sort of... negative or ugly is not the norm. Something however has been going on in our life for awhile and I feel compelled to share and be truly transparent here on the blog. To let people into the less colorful and not-so-glamorous aspect of our life. Hopefully the truth from what I've recently learned will change you life as much as it has mine.

So I'm sure the title of this post has sparked your interest. For those of you who know me you know I'm not really an angry person. I'm human, I get angry about things along the way, but I'm not really someone who harbors anger or resentment long term. The reason for this is not that I am extremely mature or super spiritual. It plainly boils down to the fact I've never really had a good reason to be angry. Up until about a year ago I've had a pretty simple and harmonious life.
  • I grew up in a great family, most of whom have devoted their life to serving God and others. My parents loved me whole-heartedly and modeled Christ-like behavior throughout my childhood.
Grandma and Granddaddy Dart
Dad and Mom
  • I was also blessed with encouraging and lifelong friends.
Skiing with Suz
  • By God's grace and guidance I went away to college and continued pursuing that same lifestyle and surrounded myself with others who were trying to follow Jesus.
World Changers Mission Trip to Berlin, Germany
Natalia and I with our campers at the Vineyard Camp
FBC 'Challenge' bike trip and choir tour
  • While living in Atlanta, my life continued to be simple and blessed. Great jobs, great friends, great community, and more trying to figure out what it really means to follow Jesus.
In Montreal with my roommate Brenae
In Savannah for Labor Day weekend
On Jojo with Whitney!
  • Zach was really the first guy I ever dated, so no real relationship baggage... 

In general life was easy and my heart was totally free. And then it all changed without my permission.

For months this once unhindered spirit had become extremely burdened and frustrated by our situation with Allie. I don't want to get into a ton of detail, but for most of the past year we have had increasing tension and difficulty dealing with Allie's mother and stepfather over visitation.  We have tried to make it work, proposed a myriad of new schedules, and compromised in a plethora of ways to get to Allie in order to spend as much time with her as possible, but we've been met with much resistance and there's been little traction. As I am sure you can imagine it's extremely frustrating, hugely painful and massively disappointing. What makes it even worse is that the law is even on our side, but still justice seems to be months away.

Unbeknownst to me, this natural frustration with a very legitimate problem had been ruling my thoughts and slowly morphing into anger. Anger I have been harboring. And it's really hard to deal with anger or even recognize the problem when everyone around you justifies your feelings and confirms you are in the right.

So the other night I was mulling over these thoughts, this new revelation that I was angry, and I wanted to figure out the source of anger. Years ago I read Andy Stanley's book It Came From Within about the four things that linger in our hearts and steal our life.

Pretty much all the sin and problems we have can be boiled down to four disastrous behaviors that get lodged in our heart - guilt, anger, greed, and jealousy. I ran downstairs, got the book, and feverishly started re-reading the chapters on anger.

Anger, although sometimes completely justified and warranted, is really just a reaction to not getting what you want. Something has been taken from you. There's been a theft and someone owes you and you aren't willing to let go of the unpaid debt.

You are the victim and yet you also end up paying the penalty for the crime by being consumed by anger. It's tragic.

Anger, left unattended can spread like a cancer and infect all your relationships.

Alarmingly, the consequences of unresolved anger can have multi-generational implications. This truth terrified me. The last thing on earth I would ever want is for Allie to be relationally, emotionally or spiritually harmed by my inability to deal with this anger.

Naturally now that I knew my heart was infected with anger, I desperately wanted to purge myself of it and lift the weight off my shoulders (and mind).

Wisdom and truth from the bible teaches that there is no place in our life for anger if we want to be filled with the spirit and experience freedom.

James 1:19 "...Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Your anger can never make things right in God's sight."

Ephesians 4:26 - 27 "And don't sin by letting anger gain control over you. Don't let the sun go down while you are still angry for anger gives a mighty foothold to the devil."

So how on earth do you get rid of anger?!
The unsuspecting kryptonite of anger is actually forgiveness.

Ephesians 4:31- 32 "Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander as well as all types of malicious behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another just as God through Christ has forgiven you."

Forgiveness? Really? Isn't forgiveness letting "your enemy" off the hook? Ironically, no. By forgiving someone of their unpaid debt to you you are destroying their influence in your life and giving Jesus all the power in your heart. I mean when you really think about it, it's selfish to hold on to anger and selfishness is the complete opposite of who Jesus was and who he wants us to be.

Matthew 18: 21 -35 instructs us on this continual act of forgiving like God forgave us. If our hearts are constantly centered on how undeserving we are of His grace, it makes it a lot easier to forgive the sins of others against us.

Matthew 6:12 When Jesus is teaching how to pray he says we should ask God to "forgive our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us."

He follows that up in verse 14 by reemphasizing the importance of forgiving others and its influence on our relationship with God. 

Colossians 3:13 "You must make allowance for each other's faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember the Lord forgave you, so you must also forgive others." 

Forgiving is completely and totally freeing. Had Zach not been asleep at the time I chose to forgive and move on I would have gone dancing and screaming through the house.

Now once you forgive someone, especially if it is an ongoing sin or problem, it doesn't mean you'll never be angry again. I probably will feel a tinge of anger today about our situation. The point is to always keep it in check, continually forgiving, always giving God the power in your life and not others.

If you struggle with anger or any of the other "monsters within" like guilt, greed, or jealousy I strongly recommend reading Andy's book. Also, for those of you out there like me who didn't go to seminary and have trouble interpreting the bible correctly I strongly recommend the ESV study bible.

 This bible, nicknamed the "big honkin' bible" by our pastor and "the sense-maker" by our friend Justin, is a priceless tool for anyone wanting to know more about the bible or Jesus' teachings. There's much more to the bible than just face-value. Sadly most christians just extract portions of the bible and except them as absolute truth without digging deeper to their original meaning and purpose. This subject alone of how to read the bible should be an entirely different blog post (and maybe will be!), but the point is that it's a great resource.

Anyways, hope this helps some of you find freedom in Jesus by managing your anger and all the little things that can creep into our hearts.

For our Forest Hill family, isn't my recent revelation ironic considering David's message this weekend? Gosh, there was so much truth in what he shared and how he confirmed the importance of ridding myself of anger. If you missed it or don't go to FHC, you can watch it here. It is definitely worth your time.

1 comment:

  1. i have that same Bible as my "new Bible" (i get a new one every three years and then have to read through it and mark it up as much as possible until it falls apart and i need another "new one"). i LOVE it. just a little bit different on some verses, enough so that it makes me pay attention and look at things differently.

    i have been so proud of you as i have followed your blog (maybe stalked is a better word) of how you are handling the mothering of allie. i know that this is a long road and you can't see the next turn, but the LORD is your shepherd and He will lead and provide and guide you and prepare everything in advance! just follow, obey what He is telling you to do through Scripture, pray, and TRUST. He loves her even more than you and zach do. that is hard to believe isn't it? but so true! all of this will prepare her for what He will do in her life. this is a part of her story. and it will be a good story, as all of His stories are...