Anger is an area of my life where I have always struggled and sensed the Holy Spirit continually with Her finger twisting in my side. As a child I would become enraged at my unfair sisters. As a teacher I have directed my anger at disrespectful students. As a commuter I have fumed at ungracious drivers. As a father I have unleashed my wrath towards my slothful children. As a husband I have been cross with my indifferent wife. As a professional I have expressed my outrage when my coworkers are unprofessional. Etc. . .
When I was in Guatemala I led the distribution of efficient wood cooking stoves that were donated by some Canadians. These stoves reduced the amount of wood you would need and remove the smoke from homes where people were cooking over open fires. The first distribution was to about 30 families and these families were selected by another member of our team, a Guatemalan. I ensured that the recipients attended the training, I helped with the installation, I collected the money the families contributed to the stoves, and finally I sent thank you notes and photos to the donors. Through out this process I was struck by the fact that half of the recipients were close friends of the person selecting the families and that many of these families were not going to be using the stoves as their primary stove, but rather as an outdoor bbq – in other words, they were families with enough means to have gas stoves in their homes. I was incensed that we were dishonouring the donors and preventing people who really needed a stove from getting one. Unfortunately, once my dismay was expressed, I was told that I was being insubordinate. I wonder if I would have been labelled that if I had been able to contain my anger.
I remember becoming quite enraged at a couple grade 8 boys during my first year teaching. It was one of the last days of class and I was showing a fun movie during a multi-media options class. These boys weren’t interested in the movie so they were talking to each other quite loudly making it difficult for their classmates to even hear the film. I asked the nicely several times to stop talking and finally yelled at them and kicked them out of the class… prompting a meeting with their parents where I was the one apologizing.
My children are wonderful, patient, kindhearted and sometimes absentminded kids. When they are sent to bed, they know what to do: brush their teeth, go to the bathroom, get their PJs on and then they are tucked in with a prayer. My daughter has a really hard time focusing on getting her PJs on sometimes. She will go to her room and just sit on her bed for five minutes. This can cast a cloud of ire over me and I have a very hard time asking her pick up the pace, especially when she denies that she isn’t going at a fair pace.
I get angry when I don’t have control over a situation or over people. The problem is that in many instances, I don’t really have the right to have control over those people. One of my favourite sermons is one by my current pastor on the very subject of anger. He related a story from the previous week where he became very impatient with his wife while he was writing his sermon on anger. Of course he was immediately convicted by the arrogance the he was demonstrating towards his wife – what right did he have to cast judgement on the actions of his wife? This stuck with me.
When I consider how Christ has dealt with our ineptitudes through humility, patience and sacrifice, I am convicted at how slow I am to be humble, patient and inconvenienced by others ineptitudes.
Oh, and my principal’s name is Mr. Anger. An ever present reminder of possibility.