Lent is not a something that I have ever observed. It wasn't emphasized in the churches I attended, and it wasn't a tradition in our family. I know people who celebrate Lent and fast from something every year. This year as they started sharing what they were giving up for Lent, I thought about participating; but Ash Wednesday came and went, and I hadn't committed myself to fast from anything. So it seemed that I'd once again just ignore this 40 day period leading up to the celebration of Christ's resurrection. But God didn't let me off the hook so easily.
This past weekend, while in the throes of a nasty head cold, I had the awesome opportunity to chaperon at Dance Revolution, a Christian dance conference that my girls attended with their ministry dance team. From the very beginning of the conference, the Spirit of God was moving in a powerful way. Saturday evening, tears streamed down my face as I enjoyed the showcase of dances the participants performed. Some of them were so unbelievably God-honoring that I was completely blown away. It was a thrill to watch my girls' troupe passionately pour out their hearts in dance as they took a stand for Christ and challenged others to Stand Up.
Sunday morning began with a presentation of "The Tree." Once again, tears overflowed from my eyes. This time the tears were not of joy, awe, and adoration of the King; rather, they were tears of grief, conviction, and indignation towards my sin. As my sin was portrayed in front of me, my heart cried out, "No more!"
I have a sin problem.
From the time I was a toddler, I have dealt with anger regularly. I decided in high school that I would not get married or have children because of my temper. "The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his path," and after years of wrestling with God and allowing Him to change my heart, I got married instead of going to law school. One month after we were married, I was pregnant, and gave birth to a son 10 months into our marriage.
For years, I was determined that I would not yell. Period. My strategy was that I would whisper every time I wanted to yell. My struggle with anger did not end. I still had moments of rage, but I did not allow myself to yell and scream at my kids. Not quite 5 years into our marriage, my husband accepted a position in another state and started working there. For eight months, he was gone all week and only home on the weekends while I was on my own (with a 4 year old, a 2 year old, and a newborn) trying to sell our house. It was during this time that my resolve not to yell was overcome, and Pandora's Box was opened.
Even after our family was reunited, I did not cease yelling. I wanted to change; I tried to stop, I kept apologizing to my kids and to God, but I couldn't seem to control myself. I can remember vividly, being pregnant with my 4th child and screaming at the top of my lungs. I remember thinking of how I'd played classical music for my 1st child when he was in utero because I wanted to nurture him with beautiful and good things even before he was born; and now this 4th child was already experiencing my wrath and rage before her arrival into the world. I wish I could say that this had no effect on her, but regrettably, my youngest daughter learned from me and has followed in my sinful path since she was a toddler.
It has been 8 1/2 years since Pandora's Box was opened, and a lifetime since my struggle with anger began. I have walked with the Lord Jesus all the days of my life, but this sin continues to entangle me. I am reaping the consequences in my relationship with my kids, and I can see the negative ramifications of allowing myself to freely express my anger.
"A fool gives full vent to his anger,
but a wise man keeps himself under control."
but a wise man keeps himself under control."
God has been working on my heart for years over this matter and has especially been challenging me to put off my anger, wrath, and malice, in the past few months. This weekend, I finally bent the knee and cried out with all my heart, "I don't want to be angry anymore! Lord, I don't want to lose my temper ever again!!" He heard my cry and is leading me in victory.
Unfortunately, as I mentioned, I am not alone in this struggle. My seven year old daughter is so quick to become angry and explode. The anger in her heart is painfully evident on her face; it's frightening! I have tried to teach her to be slow to become angry, but not surprisingly, my hypocrisy wasn't very effective. "Do as I say, not as I do," accomplishes little. So, while I fight my own battle against anger, I am engaged in a battle for and with my daughter against hers. It has not been an easy couple of days as we declare war on our enemy, but through the power of the Holy Spirit, God is giving us the victory in Christ Jesus. Our hearts are so entwined together as we struggle to overcome our sin, but we know that, "the anger of man does not achieve the righteous life that God desires."
This is not a battle I am willing to lose!
So, this Lent, rather than giving up chocolate, or sugar, or Facebook, I am committed to giving up something far more poisonous and deadly...anger. If I could exercise the self-control to fast from Facebook, why not exercise that same control over getting angry? If I could deny my flesh by not allowing it to indulge in chocolate, is it not even better to crucify my flesh by forbidding it to be controlled by anger?? And if, through the power of the Holy Spirit I can fast from anger for 40 days, then why not for the rest of my life?!?!?! God has begun the surgery on my heart. He is so loving, compassionate, merciful, and patient. He and I are ripping out the seeds that have been planted and growing for these 33+ years, and I am praying that the Spirit would begin to produce His perfect fruit in me. I am willing, and He is able!
"Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions...and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control; against such things there is no law.
Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit." Galatians 5:19-25
I covet your prayers for me as well as my Evangeline. Never before have I been so committed to anything! "Faithful is He who calls us, and He will bring it to pass."
Grace and Peace,