In “The Good and Beautiful Life” by James Bryan Smith, the author recalls a time his brother picked him up from the airport and drove him to a youth retreat where he would be speaking. As they were stuck in a traffic jam on the expressway, the author became overwhelmed with anxiety at the thought of running late, yet his brother was calm and assured him everything would be okay. He ended up making it to the retreat with plenty of time to rest up before his talk that evening, but at the same time, he was embarrassed at how angry he had been over nothing.
The author says our anger occurs internally due to unmet expectations and fear, and some of it happens instantly in a way we cannot prepare for while other parts happen over time. A waiter spills hot soup on you. The anger is instant. You are frustrated at a friend for showing up late. The anger builds up with every passing minute. What if the friend was in a car accident? The anger changes to remorse. We have these fears and we believe we must always be in control, and this need to take control causes us to sin and hurt others. We are not being led by the Holy Spirit.
Jesus talks about murder as the main sin in his sermon on the mount, but he also holds anger built up in the heart to the same standard, because a person with anger in their heart is the most likely to commit murder. “When Jesus commands his apprentices not to be angry, he is showing us the way to a good and beautiful life.” Jesus made the commandment because he knows we are capable of it, but it is not some
“We may lose sight of God, but God never loses sight of us. God gives us space to experiment, grow and mature; God never intrudes. But this doesn’t mean God is not with us, is not watching us, is not ultimately familiar with our comings and goings.”
There is a thing called keeping the Sabbath, a spiritual exercise for taking a day of rest from our anger and need for control, and so the soul training exercise for the chapter asks us to take a day of rest and let God be in control. Rest is very important for us spiritually, physically, emotionally.
I graduated from college a few weeks ago. I made it. We grouped together in our caps and gowns and we walked the stage. The next thing I have to do with my life is to find work in my career, which is tough sometimes. Many of your jobs don’t know what to do with the applications. The week after graduation I went on a retreat with my college group to a camp in Albany where I took a workshop on social justice. Many of your homeless face tough conditions living on the streets. Many of your refugees flee countries where there is no going back and they struggle to become part of American society. Many women in the United States and across the world are the victims of sex slavery. What are we to do? Up until this year, I wouldn’t have been up to taking that workshop. I wish I could tell you about all my adventures, but things are so different now.
I too have been struggling with anger. I get frustrated with people while I am driving, and I get frustrated with customers at work, and in the long run it’s not worth it for us as a community and a society. The one customer attempted to beat up the other customer, and then he attempted to beat me up because someone knocked over a soda, and sometimes the answer is we have to have self-awareness for our anger and how it affects others. I was angry today. A friend canceled plans on me, and it’s hard because that is an area where I give up control and I accept the circumstances no matter what. I have to show Christ to them every day and I don’t know what the future will hold.
– James –
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