Thursday, January 19, 2012

Temper fires banked

Moses smashed the commandments of God, the very words God had chiseled from rock with His own hand. Yikes. Now that's a temper with which I can identify!

When I was a kid, I'd throw myself on the floor in a rage, feet thrashing. I kicked the stain off my piano from the height of four-year-old toes to the pedals. Yes, I hated practicing. As I got older, my bedroom door would slam behind me. My folks would occasionally reward me for the "smash" of wood against trim with a well-placed spanking. Kindly folk, who trained me in self-control. (Thank you!)

In adulthood, the best discipline for self-control was getting married and having children. I watched friends who were screamers, berating their spouses and kids. It wasn't attractive, especially when their anger erupted in public. I indulged at home once in a while, when the volcano of frustration heated beyond holding, but I didn't like myself for it. I didn't want my temper to define our family.

Through much prayer, long walks, and lots of writing, God helped me develop a sense of resignation. Sometimes that felt like, "I'm glad we have food and shelter and healthy kids." Sometimes it was, "I'm glad it's not worse." Occasionally, I hunkered down with, "I'm stuck in my life. Like or lump it."

Sometimes, like Moses, God would make me "re-chisel the stone tablet" and write on it myself to replace his first good gift, which I had ruined during a flash of anger. I learned to bite my tongue and write write write my feelings in private, rather than blowing up the household.

God always brought peace––beyond mere resignation––when I came to him with a grateful heart. "Thank you for all your blessings! I have so much more than I deserve or could ever earn. You have given me life, breath, salvation, family, friends... everything I need and more."

Those of us born with quick tempers (oh, how nice that sounds, compared to the death flares we spew) don't have to live with the fear of losing control. We don't have to scream and rage. Those with a devastating, internal anger don't have to lock ourselves away to give others the silent treatment.

"A man with a lack of self-control is like a city with broken walls," said the wise teacher. A city without strong walls was vulnerable to attack, fair prey for bandits and roving armies.

Fortunately for us, God has promised to replace old patterns and bad habits that don't serve Him or others. He can rebuild the walls broken by hurt and frustration, if we let him.

Are we willing to give him free reign, to lift heavy stones into place, to chisel and sand with blunt and directed blows, to make the rough smooth? It's an ongoing painful process, but it frees us to be fully human, engaged in life with joy and energy. Our relationships and our own happiness depend on our obedience and submission, even when life constricts, teaching us patience and surrender.

Read more:
"Then the LORD told Moses, 'Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones. I will write on them the same words that were on the tablets you smashed.' …

'You must worship no other gods, for the LORD, whose very name is Jealous, is a God who is jealous about his relationship with you.' Exodus 34:1, 14 NLT

*O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever. Psalm 106:1

*See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth, I tell you of them. Isaiah 42:9

*Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17

*The darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. 1 John 2:8

Moravian Prayer: Merciful God, forgive us when we become distracted today by our tasks and appointments. We desire to keep you in the center of our lives, but the demands on us make that hard. We pray for your help.  

God of creating light, you were in the beginning before anything existed. You continue to create. All that you touch becomes new and sacred. Thank you for the light in us and for making us new today. Amen.

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