Tonight I was driving back from work when an SUV swerved right in front of me. That’s not atypical, really. And neither was my reaction. “F&@* you, buddy!” This is but one example of reactions I have that are totally incongruous with the situation. Welcome to my life. There’s something absolutely stunning about the anger and rage that lives inside of me. People who know me probably have no idea this person lives inside of me, but it does. You might be wondering right now why I write some of the stuff I write in my blogs. Why make it so available? Do I have some kind of weird voyeuristic tendencies? I don’t. But I’ve decided that speaking the truth about who I am will do two things. It will help me be real with myself about how I need Jesus to change me and it might help other people to be real about their struggles too. What’s the worst that’s going to happen? Someone’s going to read this and use it against me or gossip about me? Life is short and I don’t like pretending I’m a great person when I really have some big problems. (Since my mom reads my blogs, I feel obligated to say: I know I’m not all bad, mom! But this stuff isn’t going to fix itself!)
The procrastination book I’m reading, Do It Now: Break the Procrastination Habit, talks about these outbursts I’ve described above. The author calls it “irrational anger.” He starts by validating certain types of anger. In fact, he alludes to this fantastic quote he attributes to Aristotle that, though somewhat cryptic, is incredibly descriptive and helpful if you read it a few times: “We praise a person who feels angry on the right grounds and against the right persons and also in the right manner in the right moment and for the right length of time.” He contrasts this “good” anger to irrational anger which he desribes like this: “[Irrational] anger follow a predictable pattern. First there is an expectation that others must live according to your expectations. This illogical premise then demands that we force others to acquiesce to the “right rules” – namely, the rules we set. Third, people should know these rules, and if they act disobediently, or fail to properly interpret a subtle warning, they should be severely punished.”
How often do YOU do that in your life? I have TONS of rules I think people should have to follow. And when they don’t, I get angry. REALLY angry. The feelings I get are way out of proportion to the rule they broke. But you want to know what is crazy? Merely knowing this stuff won’t help you. I got worked up TWICE on the way home from work. Both times, I said, “It’s ok, man. No worries; these ‘rules’ you imagine they’ve broken are not real rules. Let it go.” But I couldn’t let it go. I don’t know if I’ve ever been so aware of my sin as I have been the last few days. It is fantastic and devastating at the same time.I don’t want to unknowingly sin. But I don’t want to sin period. So knowing what I’m doing is great, but knowing what I’m doing is also awful because I see the sinful me.
I don’t know what the solution to irrational anger is. One verse has come to my mind more than once these past couple days. Paul, the apostle, writes a letter to one of his students, Titus. In the letter, he reminds Titus of what their lives were like before they came to know Jesus. He says, “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another” (Titus 3:1-3, emphasis mine). What changed Paul? He continues, “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:4-6).
This is the time in the blog where I’m supposed to say that Jesus has given us everything we need to live righteous lives and I can go to sleep feeling like a bible scholar because I’ve coughed up a few fairly obscure New Testament verses. Well, I’m not going to do that. I’m going to write exactly what’s on my mind. I don’t understand why, when my wireless keyboard acts up, I’m inclined to pound it. I don’t get it. I started following Jesus about 7 years ago. Why is it that I still have such problems with malice, envy, hatred, lust, and other sins. Yes, the easy answer is to say, “Well, I’m human.” And I don’t want to ignore that. But Paul alludes to things in the New Testament that include an ELIMINATION of sin. Not totally because we still live in these bodies. But he consistently alludes to people being changed because of their faith in Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. How much has that happened with me? Sure, I don’t do lots of sins other people do and the Holy Spirit may well help me resist those sins, but what of the 5,000 other sins? Simply saying, “Becoming holy takes a lifetime” doesn’t make sense to me. I KNOW it does, but why is it going so slowly? What am _I_ doing to hinder the work of God in my life? I don’t know but I WANT to know. So tomorrow morning, I’m going to ask Him. And I’m gonna try to listen. Actually LISTEN for His voice. I’m EXPECTING Him to talk to me. Yeah, this is getting David Koresh/Branch Davidian-ish. No, I’m not going to start a cult! I just want to know what’s going on in my heart! How am I sabotaging my growth in Jesus and where does this irrational anger come from and how can it go away?
This is my life. It is jacked! I haven’t even written here yet about my money, lust, church, or many other problems. But you know what? Like I just said – this is my life. This is my REAL life. This isn’t what I want people to see. This is just the way it actually is. And it’s the life God sees, too! Jesus didn’t hang on the Cross for a nice story. Paul tells us “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). I wasn’t created to curse people out on the freeway. I wasn’t created to break my keyboard when it isn’t working right. I wasn’t created to be snippy with my brother when he’s making more racket than I’d like. I was created in Christ Jesus to do good works. And I’m either not recognizing these good works I’m supposedly doing or I’m not doing any good works. There’s a disconnect in my life. Sin is right at the center of it. And I’m going to figure it out. Lots of churches today don’t speak to this life. They speak to some kind of psuedo life where we’re still able to maintain our facade of having it together when everything on the inside is messed up. I’ve taken a break from church (read: I’m not going anymore because I don’t think I should). Undoubtedly, some of my friends who read this will be concerned. I’ll be sure that my next blog is about it.
My post-word is that I feel more real, more humble, and more open than I have at any point in my life. Jesus is the Savior. There’s no doubt of that. But while I live, I don’t need Him to save me from hell. I need Him to save me from myself. I’ve never really asked Him to do that. I might pray some shotgun prayer, “Jesus, help me not be angry.” But I’ve seen no fruit. Why? Do I not have faith when I pray it? Do I not pray it enough? Or is there something I’m missing altogether? All I know is my joy is being plundered by sin. I don’t like it. I want my freaking joy and I’m going to fight for it. I don’t even know what that means yet. Maybe this blog will just fade into digital oblivion and it will mean nothing to me. But, at this moment on this day, it meant something. I hope it does going forward. I want to be happier than I am now! I know God will be my greatest joy, but I don’t know how it works out IN REAL LIFE.
David Crowder has a song called Foreverandever Etc… Two verses say what I feel…there’s not just an intellectual agreement with these words. There is some kind of profound understanding/feeling in my soul (or whatever place lives below my heart).
“I think I’m on the brink of something large
Maybe like the breaking of a dawn
Or maybe like a match being lit
Or the sinking of a ship
Letting go gives a better grip”
What if God uses our awareness of our sin – like irrational anger – to drive us to Himself? I feel more like a little kid every day. A million questions. Are we really living the full life? There’s no way! So why do we accept it every day? Arise! This won’t happen by itself. Father, answer. I don’t want to invent some way of living. I want to live how we were intended to live. Who else knows but Him? I’m betting that if we’re willing to really be quiet and listen, He’ll talk to us. A new adventure starts in 6 hours. When did I lose my awe of life? When did I replace it with a psuedo-awe that verbally marvels at things and praises God, but inwardly is numb and unmoved?
Just so you know (I just thought of this), I never want to be fake in my writing. I want to use words that are precise and engaging without being pretentious and fake.
That’s all for me tonight. I go to sleep a sleepy, perplexed, and inquiring boy. He remains ever-awake, never-perplexed, and always-knowing. I smile knowing that…and knowing He answers those who ask. And speaks to those who listen.