I struggle with anger. It seems like it’s always there, just below the surface. I leak anger like a rusty watering can leaks water. When life is stressful, when I am overwhelmed, when my expectations aren’t met, my anger bolts to the surface and shoots shrapnel in every direction. Just the other day, I instructed my kids to watch our new puppy while I went upstairs and got dressed. It was an easy task, which I expected them to execute. They didn’t. Instead, I came back downstairs to messes in the living room and hallway. I exploded. And while my reasons were legitimate, my reaction was all wrong. This became painfully clear when my children melted into tears in the middle of my tirade.
This pattern is exhausting and damaging to those closest to me. It is exhausting to me. In the wake of my anger, I find myself begging for forgiveness, apologizing for my failure, promising to do better next time.
But at the end of the day, I don’t need conviction. I don’t need a reminder of my iniquity or an unfiltered perspective of my stains. I have that covered. I am well aware of my insufficiencies. I also don’t need verification of God’s love and forgiveness in spite of this failure. I am confident and secure in my position with God. What I need is hope. Hope for change. Hope that instead of simply doing better, I can be better. I need a promise and a path that assures me that my anger doesn’t have to define or dictate me.
The first step in that journey came a few hours later when I picked up my oldest son from a church youth retreat. After getting in the car, he informed me that he had forgotten to pack a number of things for the retreat, namely socks, underwear, pajamas and a swimsuit. In contrast, while neglecting the essentials, he packed plenty of games and puzzles for free time. As he and I revisited his packing process, I mentioned to him that, in hindsight, he had paid too much attention to what he wanted instead of what he needed.
Isn’t that true of all of us? Most of us are guilty, time and time again, of paying attention to what we want rather than what we need. We fight tirelessly to attain what we desire while what we need slips right through our fingers. And the truth is, we rarely get what we want. People rarely behave as we’d like them to. Our expectations are seldom met. And we get angry.
Perhaps if we put more energy into what we need rather than what we want, things might change. That morning, what I wanted was for my children to display responsibility. While that’s a worthwhile aspiration, it’s certainly not what I need. What I need is for my children to know that when they fail, my love for them is still intact. I need them to know that their home is a safe place. I need them to grow up joyful and whole, knowing that my approval is not tied to their behavior but, rather, it is rooted in their hearts and spirits. Tragically, all that was needed was lost in the messy pursuit of what I wanted.
Philippians 4:19, says “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Some translations also use the word “fill” instead of “supply”, but I don’t think either word does the original translation the justice it deserves. In the original Greek, the word is pleroo, which implies “very full or saturated.” Carrying it even further, the literal translation is “to cram, as in a net.” God will saturate our needs. He will take the net we have woven with all of our needs and He will cram it full. I love the word cram. I think of a middle-schooler’s locker or a toddler’s toy box. It brings to mind my husband’s workbench or my baking drawer. They are crammed full. They simply cannot hold another thing. That is exactly what God desires to do for us. He doesn’t just want to fill our needs, He wants to cram all that we need into our lives until we are spilling over. Until we simply can’t contain the blessings.
I am convinced that the key to putting my anger to rest is to let go of what I want. To take my net, turn it over and let all my wants and desires come tumbling out. I have to empty my hands and heart of what I crave and hold them open for God to pour in what I truly need.