Thursday, June 29, 2017

if you're tired of letting anger lead the way

Everything was perfectly prepared.

The chocolate croissant had been proofed overnight and then baked to golden goodness after I returned from my morning workout.

The tea was hot and steamy in my favorite mug.

My books and journal were piled up and ready for me to dive into them.

I even found the most awesome pen in the world {I promise} without having to dig through every drawer and bag in the house.

I stepped outside into the unusually cool summer morning, holding everything I needed for a perfect quiet time and then, it happened.

I'm not completely sure what set off the sequence of awkward events.  All I know is the ceramic plate went down, shattering into dozens of pieces on the patio, as my precious croissant flew into a pile of dirt and leaves.  Tea splattered all over my books and I was left standing there in the middle of the mess.

UGGGGGHHHHH!  I grunted.  I wanted to say more.  The poison was gurgling up inside of me.  But before I could even bend down to closely survey the damage Lucy was bursting through the door and out to assist me.  Bless her.

What happened, Mommy?!  Oh no.  Your croissant!  I'm so sad for you.  I can clean it up.  Do you want me to fix you one of those English muffins?

That sweet girl knows I love a good chocolate croissant - and my morning quiet time.  With her standing right there to witness it I almost succumbed to the anger and frustration.  I could have hauled off and kicked that dirty piece of pastry across the yard and then stomped on it for good measure.  I could have jumped right on that train of thought taunting me with half-truths - You got up early, packed lunches, prepared breakfasts, set out clothes, wiped down counters...all you wanted was a nice breakfast and a little time to read on your own.  Oh well - that's not gonna happen.  So. not. fair.  Day ruined!

I was so close to pulling myself up onto that car and riding it all the way down the rails of resentment, but first - I breathed.  One long, deep drink of oxygen.  That was it.  I took it in slowly and then I looked up at Lucy and forced a smile.  {believe me when I say I forced it!}  I chose, instead, the words I knew.  Not the ones I felt, but the ones I knew.

Good thing it's just a piece of bread, huh?  Oh man.  Sure would have been tasty, but I don't really need it.  And I guess we've got a dozen more plates in there.  This will be one less to wash.  Can you believe such a little plate could break into so many pieces!

Lucy laughed and suddenly the words felt true, no longer forced.  And with every step I took back from the Anger Express I felt my blood pressure lower and a sense of calm return.  By the time we had finished the clean up I felt something else too - something good and deep.  I couldn't identify it in the moment, but once I settled into my spot at the round table under the turquoise umbrella with the birds singing a song of redemption over me, I found the words.

Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. 

I promise I am not trying to compare my silly little mishap to the persecution of the early church {which Peter was referring to in that passage}.  But I do believe serious damage can be done to ourselves and those around us if we don't stay alert to the internal war waged on us in seemingly benign everyday struggles.

Just three days ago I stood on a stage and spoke through a microphone about the importance of being rooted in the love of Christ if we are going to endure the storms of life.  I warned against not only the really big catastrophic ones, but also the pop-up thundershowers that can happen on any old given day.  I had just weathered a pop-up.

I don't know about you, but these days I tend to keep my cool relatively well when something really big and life-altering comes along.  However, I am much more susceptible to the enemy's attacks when a quick, anger-inducing situation pops up.  This is where I am learning to 'stay alert'.

That feeling I had after I weathered the storm of a perfect morning quiet time derailed?  That feeling was this - victory.  It was the sweet taste of victory over an enemy who sneaks into my daily inconveniences and frustrations with half-truths and a misplaced sense of entitlement.  It tasted ten times better than that croissant ever would.

Joey wandered outside and I shared that passage with him.  I was honest about my struggles and how that bit of truth helped increase my awareness of attack and provided an armor of protection.  I had no idea we would both need it hours later.

As we sat together reviewing plans and projects for our publishing company the thunder began to rumble in the distance.  I felt the atmospheric pressure change.  Anger Express came barreling by and the enemy reached out his hand to pull me on board.  I almost let him.  I took a step in his direction and then I remembered -
Stay alert!
I turned and saw the signs of where that train was headed.  I didn't want to go there.  It was a dead end.  Instead I turned towards Joey.  I saw that foundation of a wall being erected between us and with all the strength I could muster I kicked it down.  We would stand firm together.  We would not be devoured.

Breathe.  Deep and long.

I reminded Joey of that passage we read earlier and committed to fighting our common enemy alongside him.  In that place and time it meant listening to each other, making compromises, speaking the truth in love, and desiring a working towards a resolution that was best for both of us.  It wasn't easy but we got there.  The feeling returned.  Good and deep.  Victory.

As the day went on we worked together to film and edit videos for my new study.  We chatted over lunch.  We dreamed about our next steps.  We recognized further attacks for what the were and from whence they came.  We talked honestly, but kindly, about our struggles.

It was one of my most favorite days ever.
And to think it all began with broken dishes and a ruined breakfast.

That's what happens when you refuse to let anger lead you.  I fail miserably at that so often, but I won't stop trying.

Post this at all the intersections, dear friends:
Lead with your ears,
follow up with your tongue,
and let anger straggle along in the rear.

Anger should be your captive, not your captor.  Maybe today when we find ourselves at the intersection of anger and joy we can more readily remember which way to turn.  It's the difference between a day that's ruined and one that's redeemed.

{NOTE:  Lucy had her own pop-up thundershower when unloading the dishwasher yesterday afternoon.  In addition to some helpful passages of scripture we added a song as a reminder when the Anger Express is after us.  It starts off like this -
I've got that joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.  Where?!  Down in my heart.  Where?! Down in my heart.
I've got that joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.  Down in my heart to STAY.
Remember that one?!  It had us both cracking up as we wiped up the giant puddle of coffee and water on the floor.  Joy in suffering.  It's a promise God will make good on if we keep anger straggling along behind and let the listening lead us.}

{UPDATE: My friend, Suzanne reminded me of one of the other verses of that song...
And if the devil doesn't like it he can sit on a tack!  What?  Sit on a tack!  What?  Sit on a tack!
We're definitely adding that to our repertoire!}

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