It wasn’t until the third day after I was terminated when anger finally kicked in. All the anxiety, the sadness, the disappointment was washed away by a welcome wave of anger. How could they have been so unjust, so ungrateful? What my friends said was right. My termination was an outrage! Curiously, just a few hours later, I became the focus of an angry outburst. What a kindness of the Lord to show me so quickly that anger, no matter how good it feels, is not the right response!
My greatest shame is my temper. When I was in grade school, those of us who lived out in the country could not go home for lunch so we were on the playground for an hour and a half every day. A common diversion was figuring out the perfect recipe to produce the greatest outburst of temper. Name calling merely caused a kid to take a swing. A simple poem set to music and sung over and over again produced the best results. Even at an early age, I had gift for song writing. I sang in a quartet. But soon it was my turn. Tommy Barfield had a song for me. “Larry, Lady Larry, bum, bum, bum. There’s a mouse inside your diaper, bum, bum bum.” I personally thought his lyrics weak and his tune was unoriginal but everyone agreed that his results were impressive. “You’re strangling him,” I heard people cry. “Get the teacher.” Tommy did live to tell the story of the totally uncontrollable Larry Rodgers who couldn’t take his own medicine.
My mother took as an object of faith that I was a delightful child. But when she and a neighbor lady were sitting on a back step as Roxy Chubalouski came running up to tattle on her brother and myself, and I grabbed a handful of Roxy’s hair and pulled so hard the whole handful of hair came out in my hand; a momentary shadow of doubt must have crossed her mind.
Since we’ve been married, I have never lost my temper at my wife for which we are both most grateful. And it has been a long time since I’ve lost my temper. I’m sure this was not the last time, but my brother-in-law had this ridiculous idea that we should only sing hymns at Story Book because these choruses were so light hearted and superficial. My very good friend John Bjorlie was there adding his agreement. I was explaining very clearly and simply to them that not all hymns are great theology and not all choruses were about Kum Ba Ya –whoever he is. I was speaking softly but emphatically when Roxanne walked through the door and suddenly my tone was not quite so emphatic and I could feel my face was not quite so hot. My brother-in-law laughed. “Wow, you sure changed in a hurry.”
I pray daily that this change would be permanent even when Roxanne is not around, for an evil temper is an evil testimony. When the world sees a Believer blow, that Believer loses all credibility. Solomon repeats over and over again the folly of anger: “It is the honor of a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling; Make no friendship with a man given to anger lest you learn his ways and get caught up in his snare; A soft answer turns away wrath; A fool give full vent to his anger, but a wise man quietly holds it back.”
Paul writes that the works of the flesh include enmity, strife, fits of anger, dissentions, divisions. The fruits of the spirit are gentleness, self control, peace, kindness.
For those who struggle with a fleshly temper like myself, who know it’s still lingering down there, not too far below the surface, here’s what I’ve learned:
1. Take a deep breath.
2. Take another deep breath.
3. Remember the Lord loves you and the Lord is good and fair, and if there is justice to be served, you can trust Him to bring it about4. Take one more deep breath.
5. Thank the Lord for having saved you and your loved ones from a shameful exhibition of foolishness.
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts to which you have indeed been called.” Col 3:15