My driveway is still full of snow. I guess 17 inches doesn’t go away as quickly as you’d expect. The road graders have come through at least, so the dirt road and the blacktop are clear, but to get out of my driveway you have to plow through a drift as high as your waist.
I tell you all that to explain the photo I picked to go with the devotional today. Because my driveway is still covered in knee-high drifts of snow, I can’t get back into my garage. So I’ve been parking under the tree in the photo. It’s a lovely male mulberry (yes, trees can be male or female, did you know that?). And yesterday morning, in the dark and the subzero temperatures, I struggled out to my car and got in. And it still takes some doing to escape, so you have to go forward and go backward. Well, because it was dark and early and my coffee hadn’t started working yet, I neglected to remember that there was a tree behind me as I was backing up.
Yup. Backed right into it. Put a nice big old dent in my trunk and a crack in my bumper. This makes the second stationary object I’ve backed into in a year. There’s nothing that makes you feel like a worse driver. And there’s nothing that can make me angrier at myself.
Everyone has their buttons that shouldn’t be pushed. Everyone has that breaking point in their lives that just requires the right amount of prodding to send them into a fury. Do you know yours? Some anger is okay. Anger on its own isn’t a sin. On the contrary, anger can sometimes be useful in getting things done. But lingering anger? Lasting anger? Not such a good idea. And anger shouldn’t be our main motivation anyway.
Today’s verses are James 1:19-20.
Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.
I was so angry at myself yesterday, but my first inclination is to do what everybody does. Not blame myself. I don’t want to take the blame for neglecting to notice that tree. So I started hurling accusations, but that didn’t last long because the only others that could possibly be blamed for the whole thing was whoever manufactured my car with such a small back window and God for making it snow. So as you can imagine, my accusation hurling didn’t last very long before I realized I was being ridiculous and just needed to accept responsibility.
But that’s what anger does. It sharpens your tongue while it dulls your mind. You don’t think about the blame you’re placing; you just don’t want it to be your fault. And that’s where we lose track of God’s righteousness.
The trouble with anger is that developing the wisdom and patience to overcome it takes a long time. Anger is like a fire or like a blizzard–it’s overwhelming, relentless, and usually shouldn’t be braved alone. Being slow to anger, as James puts it, is a habit. It doesn’t happen automatically. It’s a choice you have to make over and over again until it becomes second nature.
It’s not impossible. It’s just hard work.
So the next time you’re tempted to get angry, take a moment and think. Ask yourself what you’re really angry about because half the time our anger stems from something completely unrelated to our current situation. So identify it. Figure out what’s making you angry. And then face it. Don’t hide it or stuff it in a closet. Don’t deny it. Deal with it. Understand it. And if it really is something you have done, don’t shift the blame to someone else. Don’t pass the responsibility on to another person if it’s yours.
We all make mistakes. That’s how we learn. Getting angry about those mistakes turns you into a fool because you’re too busy trying to pin the blame on someone else unfairly to learn the lesson you need.
What did I learn? Check the flippin’ back window before I back up. We’ll see how well I learned when I go to work this morning because I’m still parked in the same place.
Don’t get angry. Learn your lesson and move on.