Saturday, March 04, 2006

Lent: Patience and Moral Purity (Day 4)

Listen to James 1 focusing on verses 19-20.

Last night a dear friend of our family came over to watch the girls so that my wife and I could go out. After eating we came home spent some time with my daughter and the sitter and then at around 11:00 the sitter had gone home and we wanted to go relax in our room and finish watching season 4 of 24 on DVD so we put the 4 year old to bed.

Soon she was out of bed and standing in our room. She wanted to put on her "nighttime socks" because her feet were cold. This was not a legitimate need, but a typical manipulative ploy used as an excuse for leaving her room and coming into ours. I actually got mad at my wife because she absolutely undercut my authority. I wanted the kid to go back to bed, she encouraged our daughter to come cuddle with her while daddy looked for the missing sock. I spent several minutes searching for the sock and after an unsuccesful endeavor I went to go take the little one back to her bed.

After returning her to her room she whined, cried, and begged to come back to our room. I firmly stood my ground against this request and so toe to toe we argued for about 3 minutes. After that short period of time I had all I could take. I threw my hands in the air, gave her a look of sheer meanness and walked out of the room leaving her crying.

That was losing my temper. I am not a yeller, a screamer, or a hitter. I am a grit my teeth and look at you as if my eyes had the power to disenegrate you. That look means I am out of control. In other situations that look would be followed by cold answers and back handed compliments. It is not a good place for me, and though I don't display it loudly or violently, I am in just as bad a place as the yeller, the screamer, or the hitter.

Patience is an area of great importance to me. I used to have a very "bad temper." I kicked holes in walls, beat a brick wall till my hands bled, destroyed friendships with despicable comments. I have been known to throw things, shatter belongings, and become generally destructive. My junior year of college, as I was coming out of a very bad place spiritually and emotionally I decided I needed to get a handle on these emotions.

I remember sitting in Wes and Rachel's house listening to Rich Mullin's new album. He had a song called "We Are Not as Strong as We Think We Are." I had arrived at Wes and Rachel's house because I had not been out of my dorm room in three days and Wes said I could come out willingly, or his wife was coming in to get me out. So I pulled myself together, came out and dragged myself over to their house. I collapsed into a chair in Wes' tacky room and sat as he wanted to play me this new CD.

It was a few tracks into the album when I heard these lyrics,

"We are frail, we are fearfully and wonderfully made
Forged in the fires of human passion
Choking on the fumes of selfish rage
And with these our hells and our heavens
So few inches apart
We must be awfully small
And not as strong as we think we are" - Rich Mullins

Never in my life had a set lyrics applied to my exact condition so perfectly. I realized how much of my anger was a sign a my weakness. Over time through the strength and healing of the holy spirit I came learned to be self controlled in my anger.

As time passed, I made an intresting observation about my anger. My ability to be patient and disciplined was intimately tied to my moral purity. At times in my life when I was struggling morally I was very impatient and very quick to anger. At other times, when I had my eyes and my mind in correct submission to God, demonstrating patience was not even an effort.

This truth ancedottaly gave me great motivation to remain morally pure, since I had seen the eventual demise of that self destructive path in college and had NO desire ever to travel those roads again. This week, as I began this journey of sacrifice and study I came across a truth that would move this causal observation to a principle of scriptural truth.

I was listening to Max McLean wonderful narration of the first chapter of James when he admonsihed to the church to be "quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry." This is a verse I knew very well since I had heard it used many times to describe my maternal grandfather. The next verse reminded us that an angry person is not fulfilling God's calling. This I knew to be true, since when I was living in my self deprecating bitter cynicism I was unavailable to love. As he continued it was the next verse that would confirm this truth I had learned in practice, "therefore, get rid of all moral filth..."

I stopped what I was doing, rewound the recording a few seconds, and listened again. I was intrigued. I had read and studied James many times before. I have preached more sermons and taught more classes from the book of James than anyone I know. Yet, I had never seen this truth and yet it is laid out so blatantly, so unapollagetically.

James tell us, "You can not be morally comprised and love the way Jesus loved." Moral comprise erodes our ability to love. Moral comprimise leaves us impetous, angry and self consumed. Moral comprimise jeprodizes our abilty to be Godly parents.

So that brings me back to my daughter's room. Anger pulsing through my veins. I am mad at my daughter. I am mad at my wife. I am not demonstrating love. I am not demonstrating God to my little girl. These words from James reneter my mind. " slow to anger." I take a breath. I kiss her and I walk out of the room. I stand in the family room faced with the full implication of the verse.

I look at the question of my moral purity from a new level. I have long since given up those moral comprimises that once consumed my eyes. It has been far to long to number since I have looked at the web pages, the movies, or the books that I measured my moral state by. I took reference of the fact that moral purity was far more encompassing than just the avoidance of illicit imagery. I committed there in my short journey through our house to pursue the kind of purity that frees me to demonstrate the patience that comes only from embracing Godly love.

My dear brothers and sisters, be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Your anger can never make things right in God's sight. So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the message God has planted in your hearts, for it is strong enough to save your souls. - James 1:19-21


Darla said...

nice post..... thank you for your transparency.

Christine Boles said...

That you're so clear on what you need to improve, and are taking steps to improve it, speaks for itself.
Keep on. You're doing good.