What makes you mad? Like, face-feels-a-little-hot, teeth-clenched, biting-your-tongue upset? I’d start my list, but we don’t have time for that. You can always tell when I’m really frustrated, because my cheeks start burning bright red. What a joy it is to be Irish.
Based on my own experiences, I tend to think that most anger is based in fear. Fear that someone else won’t let you have control, fear that you aren’t ever going to get it right… whatever “getting it right” is. We are terrified that no one will ever agree with us, that we will always be alone, and that we will never be safe. Some people spend their whole lives running from the bully of fear. If we give in, it will take us captive, isolate us, and then make you feel embarrassed for feeling it in the first place. Fear is a monster, and it can infect us until we are furious. I suppose I should ask: what are you afraid of? Take a second. Listen to the places in your heart that are embarrassed to admit it.
A few days ago, I stumbled across a journal I’d kept during my parents’ divorce, and what I found in it still hurt and frightened me. I felt my cheeks begin to flush. I called out to the other room for Aaron, my husband, and he walked in to find me in tears. I blurted out that I didn’t want to be an angry person. I couldn’t be the girl who wrote that journal. Was that really me? She was so hateful, so fearful, and I couldn’t believe the things I’d said on those pages. Isn’t it interesting how in the moment, letting our harsh words out feels like a release, but going back later, all we see are regrets? Not knowing what else to do, I asked him to pray for me. As he held my hands and began, I saw a picture in my mind’s eye.
I was pacing an empty, padded room. I was a captive of my own fury, and the longer I paced, the more that rage built. I was screaming for someone to let me out, but no one came. Everything was so unfair! So unkind! No one was doing what I wanted, and no one even cared that I was trapped! No amount of threats or insults could remove me from my prison, and I knew it.
Suddenly, the room burst into flame, the fire fueled by my hopeless anger. I was terrified. I knew this anger-fire would consume me. I ran to a corner, suddenly childlike and helpless, full of desperate thoughts. “Even if Jesus comes to save me, He will be so mad at me. I did this to myself. I started this fire. I deserve this.” I sat down in the corner of the room, tears streaming, prepared to meet the consequences of my own wrath.
At that moment, I saw Jesus burst into this burning corner of my heart. He came straight to me. I immediately began to apologize, reaching for the words to explain this disaster, before He quieted me with a look. He stretched out His arms and simply whispered, “Let me get you out of here.” Bewildered, I let Him carry me as he ushered me to safety. Safety from myself.
I’d like to note here that I expected Jesus to respond the way that I would: anger. I expected a lecture and third-degree burns, but what I got was a rescue mission and outstretched arms. Isn’t that always His way? So, so much kinder than we ever expect. I suppose that’s what we should expect from a perfect King, merciful enough to die for us, but I somehow forget. Is there something you aren’t giving to him because you’re afraid He’ll respond like you would? I promise you, he’s better than that.
As I lay in the grass outside the smoking building, Jesus did another shocking thing. He told me he wanted to remake that charred building and surprise me. I waited outside while he labored away, unsure what the ruins could ever become. Surely, it was too smoke-damaged. There was nothing beautiful in there. Suddenly, He was finished, and we walked back inside. A breeze gently drifted through what had once been my prison, and where there had been padded walls, light streamed through new windows. He had taken the doors off completely. There was no way for me to lock myself in again. There was no furniture, no frilly décor. The only thing to do in the room was to lay down in the piles of pillows and rest. It looked nothing like what I would have made it, and yet so much better. All God wanted, all He asked for all along, was a chance to take that space in my heart and make it His, and yet I was too angry and afraid to give him a chance. My anger had locked out the architect of my heart.
The beautiful thing about our all-powerful King is that He doesn’t force his hand. I could have stayed in my room and burned up with it. Some choose to. At other times, I might have too. But I have seen Jesus move before, and that gave me the strength to let him carry me out. Will you lift up your head and hold out your arms, and invite him through the firewall? Grace can reach beyond the flames.
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