Yesterday morning was one of the best I can remember having in a very long time. Michelle and I had our pre-marital class at 9 am. This week’s lesson was on affirmation. During our breakout, Michelle and I sat with our mentor couple and were supposed to speak words of affirmation to one another. It was my turn first. I looked Michelle in the eyes and began speaking, “You are faithful, loyal, trustworthy, loving, and supportive, my greatest helper and my best friend…” Each word I used to describe her I filled in with specifically what I saw. Our eyes were flooded with tears because we knew that the words we were speaking weren’t just for an exercise. They were the truth spoken from our hearts! Our mentors (a more established couple) looked on as they witnessed this thing of beauty. Outside of offering Michelle a handkerchief, they sat quietly. We had taken over and the words of affirmation were flowing freely between us. Again, I realized what a tremendous gift I have been given in Michelle.
We left from class for church at 11. I cried tears of joy as Michelle and I stood with our arms raised to our King during the time of worship. Over the past week I had been devoid of tears. It wasn’t until Friday night that I felt my heart softening again and the tears returning to me. As we stood there, I wasn’t wiping them from my cheeks. They flowed down my face and tickled as they rolled down my neck. My eyes were lifted, as were my praises and prayers. Tears are a blessing. They come with the movement of the Holy Spirit within me. It’s a beautiful thing when our emotions line up with the truth. It brings about this sense of deep gratitude and joy. Worship and prayer are filled with meaning and I literally feel as though I am standing right there before Him.
The question haunted me. What had happened during the course of last week? How had I come to this place? The difference was noticeable from within even if no one noticed it on the outside. I knew that my lack of tears were an indication of something deeper. I was struggling with anger. There was nothing to put my finger on as a cause to blame. It was just there. Sometimes when I was alone it would flare out of nowhere and I would spew out curse words without forethought. As my temper took over I could still feel Him inside of me, reminding me that this is not who I am… I won’t say that I ignored His voice but I wasn’t really listening either.
When Friday night came and I could feel my heart softening, the tears returned. I stayed up late and when my head hit the pillow I was carrying on a prayer that had gone on and off through the night. This deep desire to surrender welled from within me and so the tearful words of yet another white flag moment were the last of the night.
Saturday morning my eyes opened and the first words from my lips were to greet my Father and praise His name. Again I had wandered and again He had brought me back. He left the ninety-nine and came out looking for this little lamb. I had fallen into this trench filled with mud. I was soiled and I was hopelessly stuck. Left on my own I would have died in that place, but the Good Shepherd wasn’t going to allow that… unless I should opt to stay there. When I felt His crook drawing me out, I didn’t resist. I was in deep enough to know that there was no other chance of rescue.
Consequently, as the tears streamed down my face yesterday, they came as the result of overwhelming gratitude and joy. I didn’t care if the whole world saw the river flowing from within! If we had left off without a sermon, I would have walked out knowing that my heart had been healed but there was more to come.
Open Door Fellowship has what is commonly referred to as a “lazy susan.” There is a different speaker nearly every week. Because of the way we are organized, there is no danger of the family becoming dependent on a single pastor. Most of our speakers aren’t even on staff. Yesterday was a real treat though. Bill Thrall, one of the founders of ODF, was speaking. He picked up on a study of Ephesians that we have been in for a few months now. He directed us to chapter 4 starting in verse 25.
“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
On my own, I knew what he was speaking of was impossible to accomplish. If I could control my anger, I would have done it years ago and there would be no need for this topic. Yet I am unable to. I don’t have that kind of power. It creates in me this utter dependency. It is a God dependency. I have learned and accepted that “I” am powerless but sometimes I develop acute amnesia. God, however, is in control. My powerlessness is replaced by His power, but only when I am willing to put the full weight of my trust in Him. Bill explained what Paul was speaking of here is rooted in our identity in Christ. These things were not meant to be accomplished in the flesh. They can’t be. Sure, I can bottle my anger and therefore contain it for a time, but He alone can heal my heart. Only when I embrace Christ in me am I able to act out of this new identity. In this identity my heart not only desires to refrain from anger and “unwholesome talk,” it is empowered to do so. When I start to wrestle for self control I always wind up on my back pinned to the mat and the referee counting… 1…. 2…. 3!
Brothers and sisters, it is time we embrace this identity. It’s time that we stop trying to live up to His standard through the flesh and instead allow Christ within us to accomplish these things. We couldn’t accomplish these things, even when we wanted to, before we had a personal relationship with Christ. Now that He lives within us, all things are possible. Bill’s message was meant for me but it was also meant to be shared with you. Our human nature never worked before. We need only examine our history to know this. If we always do what we always did, we’ll always get what we always got. Surrender is the way.
This issue of anger is common to man (speaking specifically of males in this case). it is estimated 90% of men struggle with anger. Yet this is one of many human traits that is not of God. Whether it is pornography, addiction, lust, competitiveness, gossip, greed or any other sinful way of this world, there is but one answer. We need to place our full weight in trusting this new, God given identity. When we realize we can’t it leads to placing our faith in the One who can.