March 19, 2010

The Man In the Rearview Mirror (Part 1 of 3 in the MACHO! Series)

On one particular fall morning, I drove my children to their school and I was in no rush, enjoying the crisp autumn air. As I pulled out of the driveway, I noticed that a red Jeep Cherokee sped down the street, towards us. I figured that the man in the Cherokee would slow down for us. Wrong. Instead, he began to honk at me as I put the car into direct and drove. You would think that because I was moving along that the honking would have stopped. Wrong again. I looked at him through the rearview mirror and saw that he was yelling and could tell from reading his lips that he wasn't wishing me a good morning. The angry man pounded his fist on the steering wheel and yelled some more; his face was unshaven but it was red. Instead of ignoring him, I chose to slow down the car a little and enjoy the show a little bit longer. All the while, I stared at him through the rearview mirror. At the four-way stop, I waited longer than I should have before turning and waited. Keep in mind, all of this was happening in a matter of seconds, but everything seemed like slo-mo. In the gool ol' days I used to have a little protection under the car seat (you never knew what you were going to come across on the lonely stretches of blacktop in Texas). I thank God that those days are over and that the only things under my car seat nowadays are hamburger wrappers, old receipts and a coffee-stained Bible. I had no idea what I was doing with a car full of kids, taunting an angry man while waiting for him to make a move. I know it was stupid. But, in just that instant, I was back to my old self, my old ways.

Here are a few thoughts of popular wisdom on anger:

1. "Speak when you're angry and you'll make the best speech you'll ever regret." - Unknown

2. "A man is measured by the size of things that anger him." - Geof Greenleaf

3. "Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame." - Benjamin Franklin

Here is the wisdom of the Bible on anger:

1. He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly; (Proverbs 14:17a)
All impulsive, reactionary anger ends up in foolish choices (ie, dealings). We handle matters best when calm and under control. Can you think of a time when you've made a great decision in a time of rage?

2. He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly. (Prov. 14:29)
Again, slow to anger and quick to listen are better approaches to understanding the matter at hand than just reacting angrily and suddenly, which demonstrates a foolish character.

3. A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. (Prov. 15:1)
He who is soft-spoken can deflate anger, even if the truth is being spoken; unlike provocative words which add fuel to the fire.

4. He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls. (Prov 25:28)
Someone who can't control his anger is someone without boundaries. Watch out for this fella.

5. An angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man aboundeth in transgression. (Prov. 29:22)
All angry men do is cause trouble for themselves and others, and a man who rages is someone who is in sin and neck-deep in breaking the law.

What does this kind of anger say about you?
It says that you have no self-control; thus, you have no inner strength to overcome your own emotions and reactions to situations. Your internal life is a mess and you're not even at peace with yourself, let alone with others around you. And, because you have no strength to rein in your anger, you are really weak. By blowing up, you think you are tough; all you're showing to the world is that you're like a diseased tree. Tough on the outside, but possessing shallow roots, and hollow and empty and rotting (with anger) on the inside.

Anger can shatter relationships; it ruins both the joy and health of many. Sadly, people tend to justify their anger instead of accepting responsibility for it. It's always someone else's fault. Yeah, sure, bud. That's why YOU end up beat up and holed up in jail, even though it was THEIR fault. Huh! That's why you lose friends, right? THEY shouldn't have said anything to hurt your teeny-weeny feelings. And that's why you get cut loose at work, because THEY caused YOU to lose your anger. Everyone but you controls those worn out knobs to your emotions, right buddy?

I thank Jesus that the Holy Spirit held me back that morning. I am no longer that man, even if I still look the same. The Bible says that I am a new man in Christ (II Corinthians 5:17). In fact, the more you study the Bible, and I mean all of it, the more Scripture will come to your rescue in times of trial and troubles. On that fateful morning, this is what came to mind:

"Be ye angry, and sin not." (Ephesians 6:26)

Instead of continuing on my foolish track to confrontation, I turned on my blinker and turned toward the school and got out of the way of the raging man behind us. After I dropped off my children, I pulled over on the next street and asked God for forgiveness of my behavior. In prayer, I remembered this Bible passage:

"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:21).

So I continued in prayer for the angry man in the rearview mirror and asked for him to come to know the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, who is the only One who could change him. After all, He changed me. And everytime I see myself in the mirror, I'm reminded about what Christ gave me that I didn't have before.


No comments: