The Sins of a Nation

The Sins of a Nation

I’m honored to be part of a new blog series about racial reconciliation, hosted by Alexis Goring, focused on how we as Christians can be the change we want to see in our world. In preparation for this, I’ve been reading a few books to help me better understand the history of the racial tensions in the western world, America in particular—beyond just the obvious. One of the books I’m reading is Be the Bridge by Latasha Morrison. It’s a great read in general, and one section in particular has really resonated with me. Especially, I think, because it’s something I hadn’t always understood.

Corporate sin. Corporate grief over it. Corporate repentance.

What do I mean by that?

Well, we all know that our country’s history isn’t exactly stellar when it comes to things like how we treat minorities. I distinctly remember learning about not only slavery but relations with the Native Americans in the first few hundred years of our history and feeling this deep shame. I was probably twelve or so when this hit me. Not because I’d studied it in school, but because I was reading fiction set on the prairie—Christian fiction that showed me so clearly how real people were, no matter their culture or appearance. I was just a kid, but I remember thinking, “Things like this make me ashamed to be white. How could people have treated others so?”

Was it me who committed those atrocities and sins? No. But I firmly believe it’s important that we as individuals grieve, lament, and repent of such things. First because it will keep us from committing the same atrocities and sins—judging people as less than us because of their culture or appearance. Second because it helps us empathize with others who suffered them. Third, because I am still benefiting by the atrocities “my people” committed. And finally because until a group as a whole repents of something a group as a whole did, healing can’t happen.

We see the example for this all through the Bible. Who cried out for mercy on behalf of Israel? Prophets. Are they the ones guilty of the sins for which they’re repenting? Of forsaking God? Of worshipping idols? Of selling out their beliefs for physical things? NO. Of course not. So why was it the prophets taking responsibility for this sin they’d spent their lives warning people against? I’d never taken the time to really consider this.

That it is the RIGHTEOUS who cry out to God on behalf of their nation.

It is the RIGHTEOUS who lament the falling away before the Lord.

It is the RIGHTEOUS who willingly speak for the sinners, who claim that WE have sinned, that WE have angered God, that WE have done wrong, and that WE need forgiveness. Not THEY. WE.

Why we? Because a nation is not just a collection of individuals. A nation is a group that has a shared identity. That rises and falls together.

I find it infinitely curious that American Christians are so quick to identify as a nation in one respect, when it comes to claiming blessings and supremacy…but we largely ignore a corporate claiming of sin. When we’re talking about that part—about our nation’s failings, about the great divide that exists, about the violence and rage running through our core—it’s usually THEY.

THEY who have fallen away. THEY who turn to violence. THEY who cling to hate.

Here’s the thing, my friends. We cannot expect THEM—the unbelievers—to turn to God and repent until WE, the Christ followers, cry out to God on behalf of our nation. Repent on behalf of our nation. Humble OURSELVES on behalf of our nation.

Then—only then—will God heal our land.

I hear so many believers crying out for a change in circumstances. Begging God to put an end to the violence, the racial struggle, to “help them see reason.” What I don’t see nearly enough of is believers seeking a genuine healing. Willing to take responsibility. Willing to change any part of their own lives to help this change happen.

We may march on Washington and pray. But do we ever look at the people historically oppressed and apologize? We may ask God to change things. But do we offer a sacrifice of our own things to help it happen? We may recognize the sin all around us. But do we claim it as our own and fall before Him, begging for atonement?

This nation has a lot to repent of. A lot to atone for. And until we recognize that infection still eating away at our core, we have no hope of true healing. But until we seek HEALING, rather than just relief of symptoms, those symptoms will not—CANNOT—go away. They may quiet for a while, but the infection will erupt again. It’s the nature of the thing.

It rubs us the wrong way to think that we might have to pay for what someone else did. But we found our entire faith on just that, don’t we? That Christ could, should have, and did pay for our sins. He took on the guilt. The responsibility. The punishment.

We are called to be like Christ.

Lord my God, we have sinned. We have fallen away from You. We seek our own instead of our neighbors’, and certainly instead of Yours. We profit from situations founded on sin. We cling to our gods of money and security instead of Your hand. Forgive us, Father. Forgive us. Show us how to love as You love. To reach out as Jesus did. Teach us how to cleanse our own hearts, our families, our communities, and our nations of the foul stench of hatred and greed. Show us how to truly be like Christ. How to #BeBetter. In His precious name, Amen.

Big, God-Inspired Dreams

Big, God-Inspired Dreams

I’m a dreamer.

I’ve always been one. I’ve dreamed of everything from being a princess with a magical winged unicorn to being a teacher who inspires kids to love learning. I’ve dreamed of discovering new species of dinosaurs and of striking it rich with a diamond mine hidden on my property.

I’ve dreamed of writing books for a living. Of getting married and starting a family.

I dream of making a difference in the world.

If you were to listen in on the conversations my husband I have during the course of a normal week, you’d realize we’re still both big dreamers. We dream of growing our publishing company, of starting a film company, of traveling the world telling stories. We dream of being the hands and feet of Christ, of inspiring others to dig deeper, to #BeBetter, of joining together to change our culture. We never want for dreams.

We’ve both been reading Dream Big by Bob Goff the last couple weeks and have been loving it–because Mr. Goff puts words and actionable steps to what we’ve always been trying to do, and to inspire others to do. To know who you are, to know where you are, and to know where you’re supposed to be going.

This requires self-awareness…and it also requires vision. It requires never being content with where you are NOW, but instead always looking toward where you’re going. Because we’re never called to a stagnant life, right? We’re called to go. We’re called to walk worthy of our calling. We’re called to act.

But how do we know what we’re supposed to do? Where we’re supposed to go?

Well, you can read Dream Big to get a more thorough explanation, LOL, but as I was pondering how we know which dreams are worth pursuing…which dreams are inspired by the Lord…I remembered a line from Hannah Currie’s Heart of a Princess. Toward the end of this amazing book, the heroine has this epiphany:

It wouldn’t be a God-dream if you could do it alone.

I wrote that down on a sticky note when I read it, because it’s something I know is true, but something I sometimes forget.

God rarely ever calls us to a totally solitary path. The dreams He instills in us are meant to be shared with others. To be built with others. To be sought and lost and cried over and rebuilt with others. Because ultimately, He isn’t out to build a person here and a person there–He’s out to build a Church, a Kingdom.

We all have dreams small and large, silly and serious, material and eternal. How do we choose which ones to pursue? The question I’m going to be asking as I look at each of mine is, “How can this help others? How can this build community?”

The fun thing is that as I view things through this lens, I’m starting to get ideas for how to take the humdrum and turn it into something that can impact other people. Have you always dreamed of owning a hot rod? Maybe you could use it to give rides to underprivileged or ill children (or adults!). Do you love to collect books? Maybe you could start a Little Library in your neighborhood and fill it with titles that could touch hearts. Do you love to bake? Maybe (when the world isn’t pandemic crazy) you could make it a point to take something to a neighbor once a week.

What’s a dream you’ve always had that you’ve been waiting for “the right time” to chase? Or given up on? What’s a dream you’re chasing now?

How can you make it lasting and impactful? How can it help others to #BeBetter?

38 Things

38 Things

It’s my birthday, so I thought it would be fun to do a list today. You know, one of those lists that has the same number of items as the year I’m turning. Of course, I first typed in “37” in that heading, because apparently I don’t know how old I am, LOL. Literally have to stop and do the math. Am I the only one who can never remember my own age??

But there you go–I was born in 1982, so the math insists it should be “38 Things.” And I’m going to do a random combination of things.

Things I’ve learned this year. Things I’ve discovered. Things I’ve loved. Things that are going to be a challenge moving forward.

Upon writing this list, I’m keenly aware of how old I’m getting, LOL, because it is LONG! But here are my year’s reflections.

 

  1. Sometimes we just have to survive until we can thrive.
    This last year of my life was, in all honestly, the hardest in my memory. I was burned out creatively, the business my husband had worked with for the last 17 years closed its doors, there were some personal upheavals, and then of course toss in a pandemic and racial rioting. This year was not fun. It involved more tears than I can recall ever shedding before (I’m not given to crying), a lot of hard work (including completely rewriting a couple books), and a lot of exhaustion. But it’s also involved a lot of faith. A lot giving up what I’ve always clung to and putting my hand in His. A lot of saying, “I don’t know where you’re leading us, Lord. But I can’t wait to see.”
  1. Macarons are awesome.
    I’ve long wanted to try those beautiful little cookies, but I never have…in part because they’re described as a meringue, and I historically haven’t cared for anything in that family. But I’ve subscribed to the ma-ka-rohn newsletter for about a year simply to look at the prettiness, and I finally ordered some for my birthday. Conclusion? LOVE THEM!
  2. Family prayer deserves its time.
    Ever since the kids were tiny, we’ve prayed together each night before bed. But we’d fallen into the rut of always praying a variation of the same thing, and it was ringing hollow. So we decided to give our family prayer a kick in the rear and bought a book called Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. Each day, morning and evening, there’s a reading, Scripture, a pre-written prayer, and time for free prayer. Some of the readings have us scratching our head, LOL, but others have really made us pause and view the world in new ways. And it’s been so awesome to see how, knowing we have set time for prayer concerns each day, my daughter especially will make it a point to ask her friends what their needs are so we can bring them before the Lord.
  1. Harry Potter ain’t so bad.
    I finally gave in and picked up the Harry Potter books to see what all the fuss is about, LOL. I’ve heard everything from “They’re the best thing ever” to “They’re evil” and figured it was time to draw my own conclusions. I’m only in book 2 (listening to audio), but thus far I’ve found them enjoyable. I’m not really in love with them yet, but I can certainly see why they’ve captured the imaginations of millions of kids. (And I’m finding the magic to be of the Disney variety—clearly fanciful and good-versus-evil. So in answer to the moral questions about it, I would ask, “Do you have a problem with Sleeping Beauty or Frozen?” It’s the same sort of thing.)
  1. The more you pray, the more connected you become.
    That family prayer time has connected us as a family, sure. But it’s also connected me more to the people I’m praying for. When I lift them up to God every day, that also serves to remind me that I need to get in touch with them, follow up, and ask for updates.
  1. Dalgona coffee is fun
    Have you seen the whipped coffee craze? I hadn’t until about a month ago, when Xoë asked if we could make it. It’s quite simply equal parts instant coffee, sugar, and boiling water, whisked to a stiff peak and then poured over milk. But it makes for a really rich flavor and a thicker drink that mere coffee alone, thanks to the whipping. We make it regularly now as a fun, quick treat!
  1. I have a hard time asking for help or knowing how to accept it.
    Am I the only one that does this? I’ll feel like I’m drowning and just want someone to ask how they can help…and then when they do, I have no idea what to say. Is it pride? Maybe. Do I just need practice? Quite possibly. Whatever the reasons, this is something I’m working on. I want real, true connections with people; the kind that gives and also knows how to graciously receive.
  1. Custom tape!!
    I got ridiculously excited a few weeks ago to realize that I could order custom-printed packing tape for boxing up book purchases from my store (for less per foot than what I pay for regular rolls). As of the writing of this, it hasn’t arrived yet, but I’m so stoked to see it! [Edit: IT’S HERE AND IT’S AWESOME!!!!]
  1. I love my teen
    My daughter is nearly 15, and while I’m sure there are bumps ahead of us, as of now, these teen years have been so awesome. We have such great conversations, and it’s a real blessing to see the sort of woman she’s growing into.
  1. I read more than I thought
    As someone who has been in the homeschooling life for ten years already, I’m keenly aware of all the times I want to read for fun and am just too tired, and hence of the TBR pile that just grows and grows. It’s made me think I don’t really read that many books anymore. So in 2020, I began keeping a list. I include the novels I read to my son for school, as well as those I edit and read for fun. If you’d asked me before I started the list, I would have said I only manage 1-2 books a month. In fact, I read 4-5 a month, sometimes more (not counting my own when I edit them). Not so shabby!
  1. Tea parties are ALWAYS fun
    Since I began my online #TeaPartyBookClub a year ago, I have hosted 14 of these events, and I love them now as much as I did when I got the idea. There’s just nothing like fun treats, a good book, and an hour to talk about it with other book lovers!
  1. Ideas are easy. Action is hard.
    I have no problem coming up with ideas for anything. But actually putting action to it? Yeah…I have a bad habit of thinking that because I thought or talked about a thing, it’s done. Follow-through, whether in something simple or soul-deep, is something I’m dedicated to working on.
  1. Kittens are adorable
    News flash, right? We’ve had 2 cats for nearly 10 years, but then we rescued a stray kitten last September, and oh my gracious. I’d forgotten how adorable kittens are. It was a challenge to get the older cats to warm up to her, but she makes us smile and laugh every single day. And she’s also worked herself into the first book in my new series, in which her name is Darling (for realsies, she’s Sammy).
  1. Video games and YouTube
    I think it’s easy for those of us who grew up in ye olden days to automatically assume that all these video games and YouTube channels are terrible, brain-rotting developments. But I watch my son build recreations of things like the Arc de Triomphe in Minecraft, and I’m forced to revise my opinion. The fact that he builds on a screen is no less impressive. I’m still amazed that he can just look at a picture and then build it in 3D. And he comes out daily to tell me what he’s learned about this spider or that fish or some odd natural occurrence from the science-oriented YouTube channels he subscribes to. So you know…different doesn’t mean bad.
  1. Best. Socks. Ever.
    I’ve been jogging a fair amount this summer, and talking walks with my husband too, and the result was blisters. After some reading, I learned that my little cotton socks actually aren’t the best choice for this activity, so I invested in some Bering athletic socks. And oh wow. They’re the most comfortable things I’ve ever put on my feet, and I want to wear them all the time. (Also, I haven’t had any new blisters.) These have combined with…
  1. Actual, grown-up running shoes are pretty sweet too
    The last new pair of athletic shoes I bought are now about 9 years old (ahem), and they were kids’ shoes, because, well, they’re half the price of adult ones. But as mentioned above, I was getting blisters, and I also kept slipping on our gravel hill, so I decided it was time to buy some actual, grown-up running shoes. I asked my best friend Stephanie what brand she recommended, since her husband’s one of those crazy people who actually runs marathons, and they said to check out Hoka. So I did. I bought a pair from Poshmark that had only been worn twice, and I love them!
  1. I can’t brains today. I has the dumb.
    We saw a T-shirt with this on it a while back, and it’s become our joke any time one of us does something stupid. I’d mentioned it at a writing conference last summer, and then a few months later, a friend I made there sent me a mug she’d found with the saying on it. I laugh every time I look at it. <3
  1. A Christmas Carol
    Can you believe I’ve never actually read this classic Dickens novel?? I couldn’t. So we decided to remedy that by reading it last holiday season as a family. We actually started it one evening when the electric went out (read by book light), and finished it up in the week between Christmas and New Year’s. It was so much fun!
  1. I love recording things
    I decided a while back that it would be fun to record my own audio books, so we invested in a good mic. I’ve actually gotten started with podcasts (to make sure I know what I’m doing with something shorter than a book, LOL), and it’s so much fun! I’m going to start recording my novellas soon, and I’m super excited.
  1. I just turned in my 25th book
    Twenty-five. Two of those were novellas, but otherwise, these are full-length novels. It’s so amazing to look at that list and have a visual reminder of what I’ve accomplished in the last ten years. Thank you, Lord, for letting me do this thing I love!
  1. New imprints
    WhiteFire is going to be launching another new imprint soon. Can’t officially announce it yet, but it’s one of those things that God lined up the pieces for in that way He sometimes does, and just sprang it on us. So exciting to see how it’s coming together!
  1. T-shirts and tote bags
    We’ve had print-screening equipment for about 10 years, but we’ve only used it a handful of times. When we got the idea to start a line of bookish T-shirts, I wasn’t sure how it would go. But we did it as a family, teaching the kids how to help, and it was a surprising amount of fun! So glad my best friend suggested tote bags too!
  1. Just give ’em chores
    For years, I’ve been trying to creatively inspire my kids to do the things I want/need them to do, using as a reward the things they want to do. Earn that computer time by doing X, Y, and Z! Yeah…none of that ever worked. So this year, I said, “Heck with that. New rules. Until you get this done, you don’t do anything else.” Much better, LOL. We’ve been lax over the summer, but overall it’s working great.
  1. Bookstagram
    Instagram is one of those things I admire but hadn’t taken the time to really commit to doing. But the Bookstagram world has won me over. My assistant, Rachel, and I have been taking fun photos of books, and it’s so much fun! My daughter helps me stage ours. Follow me HERE!
  1. New authors
    This year I’ve also been trying to actually read some of the authors I’ve always wanted to but just hadn’t picked up yet—or hadn’t read anything of theirs in the last decade. And they’ve all been great! I’ve thus far introduced myself to Toni Shiloh, Kristi Ann Hunter, Karen Witemyer, J.K Rowling, Siri Mitchell, and Ted Dekker. (Those last two I’d read before, but so long ago it hardly counts.)
  1. Friends that elevate
    Something I’ve noticed about my friends, and which I really love, is that spending time with them, whether in person, on the phone, or through email and chat, lifts me up. We have conversations about things that matter. We explore ideas and philosophies. We can talk about kids and school and knitting one minute and then segue into how to reach modern unbelievers through quality fiction. Talking to you guys makes me a better person. I’m so grateful God put you all in my life!
  1. Tea tins
    Thanks to the #TeaPartyBookClub, my kitchen has become a bit of a tea room, LOL. I have no fewer than a dozen varieties of loose leaf tea at any given time, and I adore the cute little tea tins I got to store some of them. They double-seal for freshness, and lemme just tell you, it’s way easier (and less wasteful and messy) to scoop from them than from the zipper bags the tea comes in! But that also reminds me of…
  1. The Georgia Tea Company
    All my tea varieties come from this awesome online company, and they’re amazing. The teas themselves are fabulous, they offer blends I’d never heard of but absolutely adore, and the company itself is a pleasure to work with. When I explained my tea party idea to the owner, he graciously sent me samples of half a dozen blends so I could pick which ones to offer. I’ve ended up using them all over this last year, and trying others too! (Also, if ever you want to try their tea, I have a referral code coupon that will save you some money. Just let me know!)
  1. Broken phone screens
    I have never had a phone with a broken screen; my husband has broken his, but in a way that rendered the whole thing useless. I fell while jogging last autumn and landed directly on the pocket in which I had my phone, and the screen cracked in several places—but it still works! So I’m going on a year with a broken screen. (I was far more irritated at the damage to the phone than to my gravel-torn knee and hand. Because, you know, I heal.)
  1. Kids get tall
    My daughter stopped growing at 2 inches shorter than me, and she’s been that height for years. But Rowyn, at twelve, has officially caught up with her and is closing in fast on me. He’s always been short for his age, but now all of a sudden he’s a bit above average on the charts. It’s so weird to look over at him and basically look eye-to-eye! He keeps saying, “I’m not used to being this tall.” I replied, as any good mother would, that he now has no excuse not to put things away on high shelves. 😉
  1. “Timely” is scary
    I have a book releasing next month that includes the Spanish Flu. And one in January set in Savannah during the Civil War, so obviously it deals with racial issues. Both of these things are timely. And that makes it TERRIFYING as an author. What if I got it wrong? What if people are so tired of the issues they don’t want to read it? What if…? Of course, all I can do is put it in God’s hands and pray that He does with these stories what He wills. He gave them to me years ago, knowing that they’d come out now. My job is to trust.
  1. Where God’s working
    One of our daily prayers in recent months is that God will show us where He’s working so we can join Him there. And He’s been doing just that. Pretty amazing stuff.
  1. Grocery pick-up
    Our local supermarket chains just began offering the curbside pick up in the last year (before the pandemic, happily), and I love having this option. Especially now, but even beforehand, I was using it to ease the burden on busy weeks.
  1. Best S’mores ever!
    Our campfire discovery for the summer: use Chewy Chips Ahoy! chocolate chip cookies as your cracker, a Reese’s Cup Thin, and then a marshmallow. Oh. My. Gracious.
  1. I still have a lot of work to do
    On me, that is. I’ve been trying. Trying to be deliberate. Trying to love each one in the way they need. Trying to build community. Trying to build relationships. Trying to walk worthy of the call He’s put on my life. Trying to take everything to Him. But I’ve got a lot of work to do still. I’m realizing how much every day.
  1. If you hear me say, “It’s totally fine!” when talking about my work load…
    …then it totally isn’t, LOL. That seems to be what I say when I’m feeling overwhelmed and don’t know how I’m going to get things finished by deadline. The statement is true—God always helps me deliver what needs done, and everything will be fine. But the more I say it, the more I’m trying to convince myself. It’s Roseanna Code for “pray for me, I’m getting desperate!” LOL
  1. I’m clearly getting old…
    Because this list took FOREVER to come up with! Would have been way easier a decade ago. 😉
  1. But wherever He takes me next…
    I can’t wait to see it. I don’t know where the path will veer. I don’t know what He has in store. I don’t know what heartaches and joys await me. But I’m going to keep my hand in His and trust it’ll be someplace amazing.

Thoughts Without Action

Thoughts Without Action

Ideas are easy. Change is hard.

My husband and I were talking about this the other day, as I contemplated why we balance each other out so well. I said—and I’d been giving it some thought—that one of the things I most appreciate about our relationship is that he holds me to my word and makes me actually put action to my ideas. He looked at me like I was a little crazy, because this is one of his strengths, and he’s always baffled by people who don’t just do what they say.

But I have to think I’m not alone in this, so hopefully sharing my own struggle will help someone else.

It’s so easy for me to talk about an idea, to muse my way through it, to philosophize and theorize. Whether it’s a discussion about true equality and how it has to begin in the heart or, frankly, an experiment to try in my store, I’ve found I always tend to do the same thing: think that by putting words to it, I’ve done it.

Sadly…no. It doesn’t work this way. Yes, putting words to it can in fact change my heart and my perspective. But until I take those words and put action to them, what have I really accomplished?

I guess this is where that talk the talk/walk the walk saying comes from. We say all the right things about loving our neighbors and being filled with Christ…but when it comes right down to it, we’re more likely to love ourselves and be filled with anger. We say that Christ’s sacrifice is the costliest gift ever given, but we’re still happy to give that away freely and cling to our precious, hard-earned dollars with both fists, or spend them on our own luxuries rather than someone else’s needs—because while we say everything is God’s, what we mean is that ultimately He may own it, but I’ve earned this, it’s mine, so I’ll give Him His ten percent do what I please with the rest.

We say we put Him first. But what we really mean is first after ourselves and our families.

I know I’ve talked about a lot of this before, but it’s still something I struggle with. Even after I’ve made a decision about something, that deciding is the easiest part for me. Doing it is HARD. Even if I firmly believe it’s the best thing. Even if it’s what I know God is calling me to.

It’s easy to say we can’t cling to anger; it’s hard to actually put it aside and offer grace instead.

It’s easy to say our days our His; it’s hard to get up day after day and actually listen for His direction in our every moment.

It’s easy to say we’re going to seek true community; it’s hard to remember, through the clutter of our daily lives, to pick up the phone or the greeting cards or carve out an extra hour to spend with someone.

It’s easy to say we’re Christians; it’s SO HARD to actually be “like Christ.”

I have to remind myself frequently of what He actually did:

  • He ignored politics and focused on cleaning out the hypocrisy in the church
  • He ignored a lot of the wealthy, together, A-list types and focused on the sinners, the diseased, the homeless, the outcast.
  • He loved those who were hurting.
  • He mourned those who had turned their backs on the Truth.
  • He taught that following the rules wasn’t enough, you had to go deeper, down to the heart of a matter, and do the right thing for the right reasons.
  • He gave up the comfortable so that He could teach others what it meant to carry a cross day by day.
  • He sought the Father’s will above His own earthly one.
  • He was never ashamed to admit His purpose, His calling.
  • He asked the hard questions and would do and say whatever He must to challenge someone to look deep in their own hearts.

Am I doing those things? Really, truly doing them, or just talking about them?

I know most of my posts in recent months and years have at the heart been focusing on this—on really evaluating our own motivations and then deciding to #BeBetter, to put action to the words. Because this is something I know I need to constantly address. This is a weak spot for me. But I really have been blessed with a husband who has his own faults, sure, but has this strength to shore up mine. And that’s what I hope we can be for each other, too. A community of people who want to be more than whitewashed tombs, as Jesus would say—pretty on the outside, but holding death within. A community of people who encourage each other, exhort each other, edify each other, and help each other be true Christians. Truly like Christ.

So…thanks for being on this journey with me. Thanks for the words of encouragement you send, that let me know I’m not alone in this struggle to be who I think I am. We all know very well this isn’t a journey with an earthly destination we can actually reach. We’re never “there.” Never in a place we’re meant to remain. But if ever we’re asked the question, “Are you where you want to be in your faith walk?” I pray we can say this in all honesty:

“I’m where I need to be today. But it’s not where I’ll need to be tomorrow.” Ever upward, my friends. Ever onward. Ever closer to Him.

An Angry Dilemma

An Angry Dilemma

What makes you angry?

Maybe you’re frustrated with the state of the world right now. Maybe someone you love has been ill-treated. Maybe politics makes you red in the face. Maybe your spouse ignores your feelings or your kids don’t listen or your neighbor keeps doing that thing you asked them a million times not to do.

My husband asked this question in church last weekend, and we got the expected answers. One fellow is angry at how the nursing home isn’t taking care of his wife the way he feels they should be. One lady is angry about some of the pandemic restrictions. Another is angry at the defacing of statues during the protests.

By the time we left church, I was a little angry at how one member went out spouting some really hateful stuff and everyone just laughed him off.

We get angry. This is normal and natural and even healthy. It’s an emotional, gut reaction. But do you all remember this verse?

“‘Be angry and do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. ” ~ Ephesians 4:26-27

Have we really stopped to examine what that means, and the instruction it carries? Paul is saying here that we WILL get angry. That’s fine. But we CANNOT remain angry. That’s what “do not let the sun go down on your wrath” means. We can’t cling to it. Coddle it. Revel in it. We cannot hold it tight and wrap ourselves up in it. We cannot live in anger—but that’s exactly what I see many of us in the Church doing.

It’s dangerous, my friends. And Paul says why right there—it gives a foothold to Satan. It eats away at our souls.

Getting angry is normal, natural, and even healthy. But we cannot leave it at that. We cannot, should not, ought not accept—and even justify—our anger. But I hear that a lot too. Do you? Do you hear people—or even yourself—making excuses for why their anger is good and right and righteous?

It isn’t. I’m just going to say that outright. Even if the thing you’re angry about is a grievous, horrendously sinful thing, staying angry about it is not righteous. Because anger is our emotional reaction—not our SPIRITUAL reaction. It breeds hatred, prejudice, bias, bigotry, bitterness, pride, self-righteousness, unforgiveness…the list goes on. It’s an immediate gut reaction to a situation that we cannot help but feel, and sometime—SOMETIMES—it indicates something genuinely wrong and in need of addressing. But here’s my challenge to us all:

Whenever you feel that bite of anger, STOP. Stop and ask yourself why that makes you angry.

 Let’s take the defacing of statues as an example. Why does that upset us? The answer I hear most often, and which I myself have even said, is “because people want to forget our history.” Okay, so forgetting our history isn’t a good thing, lest we doom ourselves to repeating it. But…do I actually know the history of those statutes? Nope. I can be perfectly honest and say I don’t. I had no idea, for instance, that a huge percentage of the statues of slaveholders being taken down were raised in the 1960s as a direct protest against the Civil Rights movement.

That changes my feelings quite a bit. I don’t know about you.

But do you see my point here? I get angry and cite a reason that contradicts itself. I say I care about history, when I don’t even know the history I’m trying to defend. So how can that really be my reason? I need to dig a little deeper. What’s really making me angry? It’s not the history, clearly. It’s not that I have any attachment to these statues that I’ve never even seen in person. It’s because I feel threatened. I’m angry because people who are not like me are lashing out at people who are like me, and I don’t understand it. I fear it.

How often is our anger really fear? Probably way more often than we may think. But isn’t fear, at the root of it, a lack of trust? So does that mean that anger is also a lack of trust in God?

Are we angry because we don’t trust Him to redeem the situation? Are we angry because we want everything to be smooth and easy, despite the promise that it won’t be? Are we angry because He’s letting sin abound?

So many times, the psalmists cry out to God in anger—why are you letting the unjust prosper? Why are you not DOING something?

But here’s something we need to remember. God lets us do our thing, and that goes for all of us. He lets us choose sin or righteousness, God or Satan, anger or forgiveness. He lets us choose how we will react in each situation. He lets us choose…but He calls us, when we are filled with His Spirit, to #BeBetter. To let go of the human reaction and choose something greater, something nobler, something higher, something better.

He calls us to choose to let go of our anger. No, to not even grab hold of it to begin with. To feel it and then let that emotion move itself away. Because if we cling, that’s when sin enters in.

Ouch. Did you feel that sting? I sure did. That means that when I go on being angry and frustrated with someone or a group or a social movement—day after week after month after year—it is my sin, not theirs. When I grumble and seethe at a political party—that is my sin, not theirs. When I snub a family member or neighbor for the emotional wounds they’ve inflicted on me—that’s my sin, not theirs.

In the amazing book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie observes that if you enter an argument, you’ve already lost. We never, ever convince anyone of anything by arguing with them. Lashing out in anger NEVER solves a problem and does not build relationships or achieve any good thing. It only destroys. Arguing only erects walls between us. Anger is never the answer to a situation.

So what is? That’s the question we actually need to be asking ourselves. Instead of justifying why we’re right to be angry, we need to step back and actually examine the situations. Ask ourselves why it affects us so. Ask ourselves what the real root of the problem is. Ask ourselves what relationships we can build, what love we can demonstrate, what affirming and edifying action we can take to change the situation.

Maybe it’s as simple as looking at that person Not Like Me and saying, “Help me understand. You’re hurting, and I’ve never understood that. Forgive me, and help me to see how to come alongside you.” Maybe it’s as challenging as praying FOR that person who rubs you wrong, not ABOUT them—not that they’ll “see the light” and come around to your way of thinking, but that God will heal the wounds on their heart.

Or maybe it’s asking Him to heal our own wounds. Maybe it means giving up our pride and admitting we may not have the answers. Maybe it means opening our eyes to where we’ve let that sin fester and asking God to cleanse us of it, no matter how it might sting to let Him dig it out.

Maybe it means seeing that the people on the other side are people, just like you. Struggling, just like you. Beloved of God, just like you.

Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who persecute you. Love your enemies. Be angry, but do not sin.

#BeBetter