The Night God Took My Anger
Photo by Colin Watts on Unsplash
Love, Blocked by Anger
I lay still in the bed, trying to relax. To slow my breathing and my racing brain. It was 3:30 in the morning, and I wanted to sleep. Instead I was wide awake, my anger slowly mounting.
Hoping both the repetition and Mary’s intercession would calm me, I tried to pray:
“Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee”
“Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee”
Over and over. I just couldn’t seem to get past the first line ...
My inability to fall asleep, coupled with the knowledge of all I needed to do the next day, served only to heighten my anger.
I turned slowly and peered inward, trying to see what lay beneath my anger. Yes, my feelings had been hurt. But looking further I realized I was not blameless. I had expectations that were not met - expectations at least somewhat rooted in pride. And if my previous patterns of behavior at all pointed towards my future, there was no doubt I’d still be angry and holding a grudge the next day.
Quick to anger.
Filled with pride.
Holding a grudge.
These things have no place in love. Not the love that Jesus gives. And not the love He calls me to give now - even when my feelings have been hurt. If I’m honest, the very presence of these things was actually blocking my ability to extend anything remotely resembling true love to the person who had upset me.
I climbed out of bed in search of a glass of water. Walking to the kitchen, I suddenly recalled words I’d read and highlighted just a few days prior in Corrie Ten Boom’s book The Hiding Place. Words, full of wisdom, spoken by Corrie Ten Boom’s father:
I silently whispered a quiet prayer:
God, take this anger from me. I want to give it to You, but I need You to help me. Help me so I can, in this very moment, love - with Your Perfect Love - the person who has upset me.
Still grappling with my feelings, I climbed back into bed. Too tense to get through the Hail Mary, I silently repeated the Glory Be until my racing mind slowed, and I soon fell asleep.
I woke suddenly, the memory of a conversation between myself and the person who upset me fresh on my mind. It was so vivid; I easily pictured every detail of the room where we spoke. Despite great effort, however, I could not recall any of the actual words exchanged. Looking at the clock and realizing only a short time had passed since I fell back asleep, I slowly came to understand it had been a dream. And as I lay there, I realized all of the anger had left me. My heart and mind no longer raced. My body was relaxed. I was filled with peace. And slowly, I drifted back to sleep.
An Answered Prayer
I woke early the next morning, grabbing my coffee and prayer journal, ready to bring the previous nights’ events to Jesus in prayer. In this setting I once again tried to remember the details of that conversation - the one I now knew occurred in a dream. I was certain the specific words exchanged held the key to the quick dissolution of my anger, to my current state of peace. I longed to know them, to learn from them, and to store them for future use.
Once again though, my efforts were in vain. With resignation I gave up, and at that precise moment I felt the truth surround me: The details of that conversation were not important. They contained no great lesson. They had not helped to dissolve my anger and would not aid me in the future. The entire conversation had simply been a gift from God ... an opportunity provided by Him for me to “get it off my chest.” And through this, He had answered my prayer.
Only now, filled with peace instead of pride and anger, would I be able to truly love the person who upset me. No, the disappearance of my anger did not eliminate the need for a real conversation. But now that conversation could be rooted in truth and love, not in a desire to prove my point. The setting could be one of peace, not that of forced calmness.
As the next few days progressed, I continued to walk in this state of peace. My anger did not return. I harbored no resentment and held no grudge - even when I considered the original events that upset me. God's ability to so quickly release me from those chains of anger seemed nothing short of a miracle. And as my amazement grew, so did my gratitude.
My Weakness, My Humility … and His Great Power
Reflecting on the experience in prayer, God led me to see that freeing me from my anger had not been a random gift. It had only occurred after I first recognized my initial response was not one of love. After I expressed an honest desire to lay down my anger, to no longer keep score. After I realized I could not accomplish these things on my own. And after I surrendered, with great humility, my pride and asked the Lord for help. Only then had He stepped in - easily accomplishing in my sleep - what I could not do with all my might while wide awake.
The love Jesus calls us to give is not based on a feeling. It is a choice. But with my own limited abilities, it is often a choice I am not capable of making and carrying out on my own. Yes, His power can overcome my limitations, and His power is made perfect in my weakness. But perhaps it is even more so when we first recognize our weakness ... and then invite His power in.
Praying, as always, that God breaths life into these words, and that He takes them farther than I ever could.