Monday, August 2, 2010

I am Thankful Anger is not a Sin

They say anger is a secondary emotion; it flows out of fear, insecurity, etc. That might be true but for me the journey from primary to secondary can be pretty short and the sojourn at anger can be enduring. I am thankful it is not a sin to be angry, “anger, but sin not.”

When I was a kid I had quite a temper. I attribute it to (1) the frustrations of a speech impediment and (2) having a sister who was just 14 months older than me. Water boarding would have been less torturous than being subjugated to the totalitarian rule of an imaginative preschooler. I was drug around, pushed, punched, and forced to play house ad infinitum. I could take you to the exact spot where I found deliverance. Shirley hit me and it suddenly dawned on me I didn’t have to cry and run to Mom. I took a deep breath and punched her in the bread basket. The look on her face was priceless.

I was free, but I wasn’t in control. I could fight back, but it usually came in a furry. I had an explosive temper. This continued from about the first grade through the fourth, increasing in intensity. One day Mom was at the end of her wits with my behavior, she blurted out “Jackie, if you don’t get your tempter under control you are going to end up just like your Uncle Clyde or worse. You will be in prison one day if you don’t seek God for sanctification over that temper.” I didn’t know what sanctification was but I did know I didn’t want to be like my Uncle Clyde. That was the most horrifying image I had ever had.

My Uncle Clyde was Mom’s oldest brother. In my childhood he lived with my grandparents. He was an alcoholic. I had never seen him sober that I can recall. I don’t know the source of his inner pain. He was vile and vulgar until God saved him a few months before his death. As a fourth or fifth grader the thought of becoming like him turned me into a prayer warrior. Whatever sanctification was, I wanted it. By the time I was in sixth grade I had my temper under control which meant primarily I had my emotions suppressed and anger buried deep.

The ability to control emotions can be a great gift and a great danger. It contributes to objectivity but also creates an environment for depression to brood. I tend to do well under pressure but find myself dealing with emotions long after the threat has passed. I can comfort others when I am in deep pain. Later I deal with my grief, or it deals with me. In some ways this make me well suited to be a parliamentarian.

As the debates swirled on topics I care deeply about this week at the General Assembly, I could distance myself and focus on my job. It was only when the Assembly was over that the full effects hit me and I was angry. I was angry about the indignity women suffered. I was angry about the pain my daughters suffered by viewing the crazy speeches on line. I was angry with the moderator about a few missteps I believe he made; especially the way he stopped Cheryl’s speech. In my opinion he was flat wrong.

The challenge of dealing well with anger is to not suppress it, give into it, or to redirect it but to understand it and channel it toward a positive goal. Discernment of the primary source of anger is a step in the right direction. Discernment of God’s presence in our anger is essential. God may be present to judge anger grounded in sin or to bless anger grounded in His heart. God’s anger is a primary emotion.

Thus, there are things about which we should be angry. Sanctification requires not only that we love as God loves; it births in us anger wed to the anger of God. Indeed, we must embrace God’s anger. In His grace even our anger that is self-serving can be redeemed for His purposes. God’s presence might be to teach us how to be better at being angry. I have discovered God’s presence to focus anger on systems of oppression and seldom on persons.

I am angry about the way women are oppressed in our ecclesiastical context. I believe it flows out of the fall and surely not out of Calvary. I pray God’s sanctifying grace to help me know his anger in this matter. Perhaps then I will see His promises for the Church of God. I will be working for the full inclusion of women in the life and ministries of my church.

Cleveland, Tennessee
August 2, 2010

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Other than blaming me for you problems as a child (LOL), I believe this is one of the best articles you have written. We tend to forget that God expresses anger.