Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Anger...the monster in the closet

To this day I have never met anyone, if they are honest enough to admit it, that didn't struggle with some form of anger. So let me put you at ease, everyone deals with anger- you are not the only one. No matter how sweet Aunt Betsy or Grandpa Joe is we all deal with anger.

What is anger? Webster's defines it as, "A strong feeling of displeasure and usually of antagonism."

We all deal with it, so why are we so ashamed of it? Granted, it's not a good character trait for sure, but neither is sarcasm, lying, gossip, and the like. Anger is no better or worse than any other sin because once something is acknowledged as sin Jesus had to die on the cross for it. The cross covers all sin, even anger.

Am I saying that anyone who deals with anger whether on a day-to-day basis or once-a-month that it's okay to have? Am I saying that anger is just another one of our many sins so shrug your shoulders and ignore the issue? No. I'm just saying that the more we deny our sin, in any form, the longer it takes for Jesus to deal with it. If we don't admit it, confess it, repent, and ask for His help, well, then you will remain with anger...the monster in the closet. 

I know for me that I get angry over stupid, little things. It's quite ridiculous the things that upset me. Clothes on the floor, the stairs piled with stuff, an unswept floor, books on the side of a backpack-not in the backpack, a chore not done well. I've confessed my anger and confessed it, but haven't had any real break through until I  *surrendered* it to Jesus to heal me.

I know people would say to me, "You're just a perfectionist and you want things perfect." That's not true and I know it. I'm not a perfectionist and even still to get frustrated or angry over little things is not right. I had to go to the Lord and ask Him to show me what was going on in my heart. He brought me back to my childhood.

A memory that I have had to deal with many times was the day my father kicked me out of the house. My mother had at that time left the family and my father was completely beside himself, but only showed it in the way of his fierce anger. One day my friend and I were watching a movie in the basement. My father walked in angry with me because I was watching television.-he hated any form of or appearance of laziness. He told me with a controlled rage,

"Make sure you rewind the video tape and put it back in its box. 
Did you hear what I said? 
Make sure you rewind the video tape and put it back in its box."  

I was 14 years old and at this point of my life had convinced myself that my father was a crazy man, knew to obey him, but was able to enjoy the rest of Peter Pan. The movie ended and my friend realized the time. She was told to be home by 5 p.m. She grabbed her stuff and we looked at the tape. I put the video in the video re-winder and said, "Don't worry I'll drop you off (which only meant I'd walk her half way home) come home and put the video in the box." I left with fear beginning to rumble inside me.

When I came home I was immediately grabbed by my father and thrown into his room. He was only about 4 or so inches taller than me, but had the strength of a beast. He began yelling at me and threatening my life. After much time I was thrown out of my house and told to never come back.

I have more stories of my father's rage and abuse than I have space to write. I have memories that haunt me to this day. Fears that well up in me out of what appears to be no where. And I have anger that creeps up on me just as fast too. What's the connection? Did I inherit a piece of my father's rage? Am I doomed to this curse forever? The answer is no. I am a new creation "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17) So, how, if I am a new creation do I still have the old sin, like anger, still a part of my every day life? Well, Scriptures says in 1 Peter 2:1-3 "Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good."  We are a new creation, a baby, who needs to grow up, who needs healing. 

So, I've been 'growing up' alot over the last thirteen years! What I believe the Lord showed me was how fear is a driving force for my anger. I am so afraid of upsetting the authority in my life that I try to be perfect. When, of course, I fail, I am filled with frustration. I begin worrying about the consequences that will come down on me and at the same time frustrated or angry wishing I could have been perfect.  So, when things in my life don't run perfectly as I have planned, fear starts, but it shows itself as anger.  Even though my father is not in my life, and for that matter my sisters who would abuse me too, it took me a long time not to fear the authority in my life and even my own husband. I used to think when we were first married, "What if I do something really wrong, like burn the dinner? Will that arouse in him a hidden rage monster?" It was subconscious for sure, but I worked hard to please him and make him happy so I would never have to find out.

When kiddies came along  I was still working hard to please my husband. Keeping the house perfect had been easy with one and then two children, but when number three and  four came along-well not so easy. I would get angry with them because I was afraid that my husband would disapprove of me and get angry with me.  If the house was messy when he got home I was afraid he would think I was lazy, a slacker. I would say to the kids, "Daddy will be home in half-an-hour- hurry let's go through the house and pick up after ourselves. Everything was already perfect, but I had to make one final run-through to make sure. (If any of you know my husband you would think, "Ellen, how could you think that of Ben?" It wasn't Ben. It was being afraid of any authority in my life).

1. What I have learned is that I can't just 'confess' my anger away and hope that God will magically take away years, and years and years, of pain or hurt or even fear- I had to deal with, yet again, FEAR. Fear of abuse. Fear that I will not be accepted, fear of failure, fear of being abandoned. I've had to go to the Scriptures and find out just how much God loves me. Scripture says, "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." (1 John 4:18) I had to look again at how He cares for me and protects me. Some of the Scriptures I've had to read over and over again. "Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." (Luke 12:7)  "Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me." (Psalm 27:9-11) And please don't mistake me for being a calm, placid, patient mom now-I am not. I am still fiery, determined, and impatient, just a little less angry with each year that passes.

2-- I had to deal with the fact that I am not perfect and I will never be perfect. I had to deal with the fact that I am not always going to please my husband, family or friends- (try as I may). I am a sinner, lost and broken and am in very much need of my Lord. When I fail my own expectations I have to forgive myself and trust the Lord to help me to not give up on myself. To keep trying, keep hoping for change.

3--I had to learn that God loves me no matter what. That was the hardest. How come God doesn't give up on me like my own earthly father? I learned that it is because God is God and not man. We can not grasp how high and wide and deep is the love of God. "I pray out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and how long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:16-19)

4--I had to learn that my husband and others love me. They love me not for my successes, and not despite my failures, they just love me. I've always tried to give people a reason to love me, but I don't have to try anymore- they love me and I am still learning to accept it. I don't need to be afraid of loosing or gaining love. God loves me and with that confidence I can receive other's love.

5--I had to learn to lower my expectations on myself, my husband, my children, family, friends, church members, etc. I have found that I have placed certain requirements on people according to their role in my life. Without realizing it I made the level of expectation too high for everyone, including myself-it seemed like everyone was always letting me down. I would get frustrated and hurt. I've had to see each person differently and accept what they can offer to the relationship instead of demanding what I wanted or needed.

I guess I wrote this article not only to share with you my own life struggles with anger, but encourage you that there is freedom- "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." (Galatians 5:1) We don't have to pretend that we have it all together. We don't have to pretend to be sweet, adoring moms or women and all the while we have this anger hanging out in our closet. We don't have to pretend because God wants it to be real. He wants us to truly know His patience, His love and acceptance and His forgiveness so we be free from anger and can pass freedom along to others and our children. God doesn't call us to be fake, He calls us to be genuine, as He is genuine, with no monsters in our closets.

I found nine different times in Scripture where it teaches and reminds us that God is compassionate, loving, forgiving, gracious and slow to anger. My goal in life is to be like Him.

-The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness." Exodus 34:6

-"The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion." (Numbers 14: 18)

-"But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love." (Nehemiah 9:17)

-"But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. (Psalm 86:15)

-"The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love." (Psalm 103:8)

-"The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love." (Psalm 145:8)

-The Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity." (Joel 2:13)

-"I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity." (Jonah 4:2)

-"The Lord is slow to anger, but great in power, the will not leave the guilty unpunished." (Nahum 1:3)

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