Anger Management

“Be angry, and do not sin” Ephesians 4:26a

I have a temper. This I know. I’ve struggled with it for most of my life. More than lust, more than anything else I get angry. I see red.

Especially when someone I love has been hurt.

But not exclusively.

Anger gives place to the enemy in my life. It always has done. I have a mean streak that can be downright sadistic at times, and it’s not something I’m proud of. This is a confession, not a boast. It is the source of my greatest weakness, but when channelled correctly it can be a source of great Godly strength.

Unfortunately for me, most of the time it get misdirected.

We all have an aspect which allows the enemy to get a foothold in our hearts. Mine happens to be my temper, but I know people who struggle with greed, lust, envy and all manner of things that can be positive attributes if we use them the way God intends.

What it comes down to at the end of the day is pride.

It’s a sense of being wronged either by a perceived sleight, or someone else getting the promotion, the raise, the lotto win or anything where we believe ourselves to me more “deserving” than the other.

Sometimes it’s not wrong. I have had several people through the last 30 years come to me for help because they have been raped, assaulted or abused in some way. It’s not wrong to feel anger about the event. Nobody deserves that kind of tragedy in their life. It’s not wrong to be angry that cancer has afflicted a member of your circle. God hates those things. When Christ returns and the World is destroyed and reborn they will cease to exist. All pain and anguish will vanish and we will be left with Joy.

The problem for me – and many others – is the inability to separate the action from the perpetrator. Christ drove out the money-changers and traders from the Temple (twice) because He was overcome by zeal for the Holiness of God, not hatred for the men themselves. He went to the Cross as much for the traders as He did for the Disciples. Some of them may have been in the 5000 added to the Christian numbers after Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost in Acts. Others may have never returned to the job. For all we know, Zaccheus may have been among them.

Anger in itself is not sinful. Consider Jesus’s actions:

  1. He sees the Temple court being used for decidedly ungodly trade
  2. He looks around for cords and takes the time to braid them into a whip
  3. He takes the whip and marches into the Temple
  4. He starts a riot. Tables are overturned. Animals are driven into a frenzy.
  5. His anger is controlled. He gently releases the doves rather than throwing the cages to the floor

There is nothing pacifistic about the actions of Jesus that day. The Renaissance paintings portraying Jesus as about 120lbs soaking wet cannot be accurate. Could such a man single-handedly cause such a riot? This was a freight-train power, unstoppable and immutable. Hardly a nine-stone wimp’s actions. I weigh over 200lbs and I doubt I could do what Jesus did that day.

Yet there was no sin in His behaviour. It was a measured, calculated and controlled use of force. There are no recorded injuries from His actions (except the pride of the traders). Even the animals are unhurt, if a little panicked. Sinless anger.

Would that this were my skill.

I don’t fare well when I’m angry. And people get hurt. Usually emotionally, but I’ve been known to throw a punch (although not in the last 26 years or so). But that capacity is constantly present, just below the surface.

Paul says we need to take our thoughts captive and submit them to Christ. It’s something I struggle with. I remember Tony Campolo, a man whom I respect but don’t always agree with, at a festival in 1990 in England saying he was once asked “Would you be free from your burden of sin” and his response was “Ya know, it’s not really that b2ec7-p1030925_editedmuch of a burden. Actually I like it. I wouldn’t do it so much if I didn’t enjoy it!”

I can identify with that when it comes to anger. It’s a place I feel comfortable. It’s familiar to me. Anger has been a refuge for me for 30 years. I hide in it and let my sheer physical strength and mental brute force run amok of anything that gets in the way.

Hardly Godly.

But we are called to control ourselves. Or rather we are called to submit ourselves to God before we react. For me that’s a work in progress.

But we can make progress.

I have more peace in my heart now than I did when I began writing this post a few hours ago. Nothing externally has changed, in fact in some ways things have got more complicated.

All Good Things

I’d intended this post to be an uplifting one. New beginnings on the new site and all that.

The problem is that life gets in the way of my plans too often.

I meant to write this a week ago. Then I got thrown a curve. Beamer, my beautiful Swiss Shepherd, decided to stop eating. Now this is a dog that will ingest anything, so turning down freshly cooked chicken with rice meant something very wrong. A trip to the vet and a course of antibiotics later and she was no better. This time we insisted she be seen by the senior vet, an old-fashioned vet who’s been practising over 50 years.

He felt around her abdomen and told us there was nothing we could do. She’d lost a lot of weight and her muscle mass was eroding. Cancer would be the cause.

So after 12 wonderful years of companionship we had to say goodbye to her.

In “Beautiful Outlaw”, John Eldredge describes a game his Golden Retriever taught himself, carrying a rock to the top of the hill, then pushing it down the slope and giving joyful chase. Beamer was a lot like that for me. Before her I was scared of dogs, but having had a life surrounded by them for 12 years now I’m delighted to have seen God’s handiwork in them.

It’s not easy to be the leader of a pack of dogs. Yes, while standing up I had a distinct advantage, but once I was seated I was hopelessly outmatched. Beamer was the second oldest. Snuggles, my wife’s dog, was many years her senior. The two of them got on fine until Beamer realised she was about 7 times the size of her elder, at which point we had to start keeping them apart. Someone suggested we get another big dog to play with Beamer, so Cadbury, a Golden Retriever with the common-sense of a daffodil, entered our lives at the age of six weeks. Beamer promptly sat on him. Repeatedly.

Then we realised we needed to have her spayed. Since Caddy was not only male but a pedigree we decided to spare the knife, but before we could do anything, Beamer came into heat. Caddy was not a year old yet and we had no idea just how strong his drive was. Nine weeks later and we had another 11 dogs, smaller but chaotic. We kept 2 of them and the family was complete.

A year later we had a grumpy 5 kilo Snuggles and four 35kg monsters bouncing around the place. At my heaviest I was only 118kg, so they had me beat in weight and numbers. Sitting down became a tricky task as I needed to position myself so they didn’t swamp me.

Beamer was the boss. Very much so. Caddy, despite being stockier, just didn’t have the will to dominate her. The two younger ones, Magellan (Maggie) and Sam, were boisterous as only young dogs can be. Sam picked a fight with a van when he was just a year old. He survived so we called it a draw. The following year he got a cancer in his back leg, so the vet amputated at the hip. Now at ten years old he rules the roost. With 3 legs.

But Beamer was very much my dog. She would stay by my side, sit at my feet and walk to heel (mostly) any time we went out. We played with her ball in the pool. She’d drop it, I’d dive for it, throw it and she’d fetch it so we could begin again. She exuded life and embraced it in a way I loved.

I collected her ashes today. I think it was even harder than holding her paws as she slipped away.

“…surely a live dog is better than a dead lion” Ecclesiastes 9:4b

I learned a lot about God from Beamer. We see Him where we look least sometimes until we look back.

After the pups were born there was a period of about 6 or 7 weeks when she had to feed them, but she only had 10 teets, and there were 11 pups. Every morning I would go to the bathroom where she had given birth. I would open the door and she would come out, carrying the same puppy each morning. She jumped onto our bed, dropped Sam onto our pillows and went back to feed the others. After a few minutes she would come back to check on him. Once they were all fed, Sam by bottle and the others by her, she would come back, collect him and put him back with the rest of the litter. The trust, the generosity was amazing. And a reflection of God.

One day there was a splash from the garden. Two of the pups had fallen into the pool. Beamer stood on the side of the pool and tapped the water. They swam towards her. She repeated the procedure until they got to the shallow top step where she could get in to take them out because they could now stand. Doesn’t God do that for us? He leads us from the dangers of the deep into the shallows where we can play in His presence then He lifts us to safety.

When we started to have to part with the puppies we had to lock her outside while the prospective new owners collected their charges. Part of the reason we kept Maggie and Sam was we saw how she would come back in and hunt around the house looking for the missing puppy. When Sam had the accident he was away for several weeks recovering. My wife and I went to see him every night, so we came home smelling of him. She went nuts. The following year when he had his leg removed she tried to stay in with him and comfort him. Sounds very familiar to how the Bible describes God’s love for us.

So thank you Beamer. The most unlikely theologian anyone could meet. It was a blessing to have you in our lives, even for so short a time.