Yes, This Is My Mad Face

25 10 2012

Second kind of day when one should not blog: angry days. I don’t mean mildly angry; blogging on a mildly angry day would be all right because it could come off with acerbic wit. The kind of day when you should not blog is when you are really seeing red; nothing good comes of that.

For the purpose of clarity, as I am writing this,  I am not at the boiling point. I was there, but now I am mostly cooled down; 90 degrees C or less.  I am not going to get into it, to protect the “innocent” (I use the term loosely) but let’s just say…I had to get some fresh air for a few hours in the evening.

I am thinking about anger and justice and parenting (there’s your hint); it got me to hunting around a bit in the Bible for some perspective and I found the point of view of these two verses kind of funny/ironic. A lot of things seem funny or ironic when you are still perturbed:

  • Jeremiah 10:24 comes from the viewpoint of the guy who knows God is going to bring correction and, if it is inevitable, he says “Correct me, O Lord, but in justice; not in your anger, lest you bring me to nothing.” Interpretation: let’s talk when You are in a good mood. I think most of us prefer that, but it doesn’t always work out so neatly.
  • And Psalm 7:6 comes from the viewpoint of the guy who wants correction to be brought to his enemies, and he says, “Arise, O Lord, in your anger; rise up against the rage of my enemies. Awake, my God; decree justice.” Interpretation: crush them. I think most of us would prefer that as well, but it doesn’t always work out so conveniently.

Justice sure looks different in both of these verses but this is how it is, isn’t it? Sometimes anger is the last thing we want to bump into, and other times we want to leverage it. If we are being corrected, we want even, soft tones to be used; we don’t want it to sting. If someone else needs correction, we want to read them the Riot Act:

The Riot Act was introduced during a time of civil disturbance in Great Britain…The Act created a mechanism for certain local officials to make a proclamation ordering the dispersal of any group of more than twelve people who were “unlawfully, riotously, and tumultuously assembled together”…Because the authorities were required to read the proclamation that referred to the Riot Act before they could enforce it, the expression “to read the Riot Act” entered into common language as a phrase meaning “to reprimand severely”, with the added sense of a stern warning (Wikipedia).

As a parent, I am well familiar with the Riot Act: state the problem, make clear the expectation, add a sense of stern warning; yup, that’s a pretty good summary of many-a-child-rearing-day. Only, it doesn’t always result in the dispersal of the unruliness. Sometimes it gets even more “riotous” and “tumultuous.” Sometimes the behavior gets so outrageous, it pushes one too many of your own buttons and you find  yourself getting fresh air for a while.

I don’t like anger in myself. I am not talking about the good anger that inspires a reformation or starts an NGO in a developing nation; I mean the kind of anger where you are just angry. I would much, much rather “keep calm and carry on.”

When anger is present, I know it is best to just put a pause on everything and start over at an agreed upon time. In Genesis, Rebekah advises Jacob to wait out his brother’s anger to give him time to cool off. This was good advice because if looks could kill! Well…seriously…Esau could very well have killed Jacob; best to walk away. I need to heed my own advice because sometimes I get roped in to the most pointless arguments and because anger is present, the whole conversation just nose-dives.

And then there was a time when God was frustrated with Moses in Exodus 4. God had great plans for Moses; I mean GREAT. He calls a family meeting with Moses and lays out this amazing redemptive idea. Parents are known to give prize-winning speeches, with visuals and incentives and this one topped all that (what with the burning bush, staff and snake and all)! If Moses would have just gotten on board! Ugh! It’s so frustrating when kids think they know more than their parents! Moses is all slouchy and whiny-pants and makes all these lame excuses and finds apparent holes in God’s plan.

God is being kind and coaxing him into cooperation at this point but frustration is starting to build. Can I EVER relate. This is where the self-talk comes in: just stay calm. Take another run at it from another angle. God does this. Moses, again with the delay tactics pushes things a notch too far and God gets angry; one translation says God’s anger was “kindled” against Moses.

Kindled; so the right word. A self-centered, uncooperative child resists the leading of their parent, stalling, stealing time, dropping combustible statements in a pile and then something they say or do finally ignites it and now frustration leads to anger. It is inevitable.

What was going through God’s mind at this point? Things not recorded (so glad most of my thoughts are not recorded as well), but God turns to Moses and does not ask Him to consider a plan B. God lays out the plan B and says, “This is how it will be,” and for once, Moses has nothing to say; he has pushed God that far. Moses lost the option of being the hero. He is a semi-hero in the Bible and that’s a stinging consequence.

There are consequences that go beyond our personal anger at a situation. Yes, I was angry last night but I can’t stay there. I can’t give in to it. As much as I am angry at disobedient behavior, eventually my concern for the longer life of my child — the bigger picture — wins out. I have to pull it together and parent for everyone’s sake.

The truth is, kids who resist the leadership of their parents, who kindle their anger, will eventually find that dis-honor steals from their own life. None of us can ever see that when we are young, but it is true. Moses never stepped foot into the beautiful land of God’s promise. But God loved Moses even though angry and even when Moses was angry. I also love the rebel in spite of how it taxes me.

So I had a sleepless night wishing I’d been astoundingly mature and zen-like rather than letting frustration, then anger take hold of me.

I wish I’d had one of those brilliant parenting moments where you surprise the child with a response so wise it leaves them speechless.

I wish I’d had that steady, unshakeable presence that could calm the wild beast…but instead I had my mad face and “said child” got the best of me.

Today is another day and defeat is not an option. I have let the anger dissipate and I enter the fray with renewed conviction and caffeine.

— Teresa Klassen

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