I dream of snow days. I love them. The ability to sleepily roll out of bed whenever … hot chocolate and kids outside playing in the snow … super-fuzzy blankets and the best seat on the couch to watch the splendorous beauty falling from the sky. I love them!
Well, in theory.
The reality of snow days is this: Waking up early to unlock the door so other people can drop their kids off … loudness … snow melting on my wooden floors … hot chocolate powder all over the kitchen and angry little people with cabin fever.
This reality really shook me this year. Because we didn’t have snow days. We had snow weeks. And none of those days (or weeks) looked anything like what I longed for in a snow day. And after the newness and excitement of it wore off, I was stuck home with angry kids who couldn’t get along. They drove me nuts!
I dealt with them the best I knew how, but it all eventually got to me. Throwing myself at the foot of my bed in overwhelming frustration, I cried out to God, “Make me more like Christ!” And I heard him say to me, “You are not so unlike him now.”
He was tempted in every way, just as we are, but was without sin. –Hebrews 4:15
Is it possible that Jesus got frustrated with people? The bible says he often withdrew to lonely places to pray (Luke 5:16). I wonder if, in those moments, he threw his hands up to God and prayed earnestly, “Help me know how to handle these people!”
Remember that time after the transfiguration, Jesus came down the mountain and found an angry group of people surrounding the disciples. A man had brought his son to be healed of a demon, but the disciples could not do it. Jesus walks into the fray and says, “You unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? (Matt. 17, Mark 9, Luke 9)” I imagine this was said with some frustration.
Or how about those times when Jesus drove merchants out of the temple? He wasn’t exactly gentle about it. So the truth staring me down is this: Jesus got angry. And that was okay. Because the bible doesn’t say don’t get angry. It says, “in your anger, do not sin. (Ephesians 4:26)”
Anger is a natural emotion. It’s a moment of temptation. A moment to respond to something in either a good or bad way. There’s this new age idea that no one can make you angry without your permission. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent,” and since then, we’ve taken off with it … Only we use it as a fill-in-the-blank and say no one can make us feel anything without our permission. So now we have this idea that no matter what anyone chooses to do to us, we can decide whether or not we will feel anything about it. But I don’t believe it. Because this weird choice facing us then becomes “be human or be a robot.” I don’t think we ever had a say in that matter …
Anger is an emotional response. Feelings come upon us often without our permission, because it involves chemicals in our brains that we don’t control. What we do control is our response to situations in our anger. So when a situation (or the person involved) stirs up anger in us (and all the chemicals involved), we have a choice: how do I handle this?
I think of it this way: Yawning is a natural response to your brain’s lack of oxygen. Anger is a natural response to your brain’s perception or reception of an unhappy event. It’s going to happen. The sin is not the feeling, but the reaction to the feeling.
This is both very liberating and very scary. Because I get angry. And the world would have me believe this is my fault and I’m a hopeless mess of a person that can’t get it together. The truth is, I have a natural emotional reaction that I need to train myself to rush to Jesus with instead of rushing into sin.