(New International Version Bible)
In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.
I wish I’d read this verse and ingested it in-vitro. Perhaps it would have restrained me from hurting others, embarrassing myself (and my mommy) eating crow, and showing my tail. I’ve never had a problem with tapping into my anger. And underneath my anger is love. At a very early age, I can recall being upset about circumstances, and those around me noticing by examining my lip poked out or my deadly silence. However, it wasn’t until I was older, that I learned to enable my anger to play out through my actions – particularly expressed to those that I believed were the root cause of my anger or in more simplistic terms, the ones I loved.
Its no wonder God instructed us not to sin in our anger. He may as well have created a footnote with the words, “especially you Stephanie.” My anger has resulted in the cancellation of friendships, as opposed to “talking it out.” It has shown its ugly head in ransacking homes of the man du jour in my life who was unfaithful in the relationship. It has cut off possibilities of restoration with others, because my expectations are high, coupled with an unrelenting difficulty to extend an olive branch when my standard is breached or not met.
I am both owning and working through anger in my life as I write this passage. A little greater than five years ago I was to be married on September 2, 2007. It was to be a glorious occasion. I had been divorced for eight years; and for six years, I dated the man I was to marry. He was kind, funny, warm, dependable, hard working, and he loved the trilogy: my daughter, my mommy and me. So, I found it hard to digest that two weeks before the wedding, he requested to “push things back about six months.” My anger responded to this request and reared its ugly head like some scene straight out of a Terry McMillan novel or Tyler Perry movie. I showed out so bad that I felt like I experienced an out of body experience, to which someone should have called “scene” to perhaps catapult me out of my anger, gone mad. The peace that I’d stored up from overcoming trials and tribulations and my daily refreshing did not avail itself to me. My anger left me drained, isolated, embarrassed and empty.
Like the Israelites, I went from excited about the life I was to have with my husband-to-be to feeling as though I was traveling in the desert. The Israelites asked Moses, “What are we to drink?”[i] I found myself asking God the same, “What am I to drink,” translated, “What am I to do to survive?” Water is nourishment; it’s necessary for existence; it’s critical, as was my desire to wed. My desert was anticipation dashed to uncertainty. My desert was in my neighborhood where invitations had been sent, my job, where coworkers were invited, my church family who’d relished in the union, my family who was supportive, and hurt similarly to me, and most importantly, my daughter who’d never really experienced the relationships I’d prayed that she’d have with a father figure.
I spoke with a friend who took great care to remind me of all the wonderful testaments attributed to the man I was to marry. Attributes that I shared. He inquired, “Why do you have such a difficult time considering the possibility of marriage to this man?” I responded, “Because I don’t know if I can ever trust him.” His response was, “I suspect that is not the case. Trust is not your issue – but anger is.”
In high school, where someone would say something alarming (but true) to you, we coined the phrase, “your face is on the floor!” Well, I certainly felt that. I realized that anger was my weapon. It is what I used as my defense, to protect my insecurity. But the funny thing is, God understands our fleshly response when we are hurt, but his Word tells us not to sin in our anger. That is the conviction for me. I must not only own, but also turn away from anger. I can’t say that it’s easy, but with God’s help, it certainly can be. Otherwise, if I give the enemy a foothold, possibilities designed by God crafted for me become stifled. My anger and the sin I emote in the earth can keep me from getting what God has for me and for my household. While doing anti-racism work, I came across a quote that read, “The places where we feel intolerant toward others are the guideposts for our own healing.” As such, I must own my baggage and allow the Lord to heal me in the areas where I have been wounded so that I won’t project that onto others.
When I allowed myself to be healed, and understood that a delay is not always a denial, then God could work with me. Through counseling, talking, forgiveness and remembering why we wanted to marry, we were able to return to a place of love. Nearly two years after my Angela Bassett “Waiting to Exhale” moment, we married and experienced the glorious day originally planned, but leaps and bounds better than we ever imagined or that for which we could have hoped. We are now in the marriage, and I realize that the scripture is so much more relevant than before. The enemy desires to be a part of our family and attempts to offer his foothold regularly – but he is a defeated foe. We must use the anger we would use on others and transfer it to where it belongs and fight the good fight of faith so that God may use us and that God gets all the glory for the ultimate love he extended to us at Calvary. That is the greatest love story ever told. I’d like to think ours is definitely a close second.
[i] Exodus 15:24