Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Warning Sign

I looked in my rearview mirror, and much to my dismay, saw the red and blue siren flashing behind me.

Ugh.  I put on my flashers, and fumbled for my wallet and car registration, which I presented to the officer when he arrived at my window.

"You turned right when there was very clearly a 'no turn on red' sign posted," he alerted me.

I did??  There was?

"I'm sorry.  I must have completely missed it."

"You couldn't have missed it."  He replied bluntly.  "It's huge."

Well, somehow, I did.  This haphazard mother missed the large, looming, obvious "no turn on red" sign that she was clearly supposed to see.  How did that happen?

After a sharp reprimand and a hefty fine to pay, the officer sent me on my way.  Then, I promptly made a U-turn and drove the 1/2 mile back to the crime-scene intersection.  I had to see this for myself.

He was right.  There is was.  It was huge.  And I missed it.

How did I get so distracted, so intent on my destination, that I failed to notice the giant warning sign hanging above the traffic light?

A few days ago, something similar happened.   I read the following "warning sign" in James:

  Because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
James 1:20 (NIV)

I've read this countless times before.  I've been down this road.  I've turned this corner.  Did I really miss the sign?  The "anger-will-not-actually-give-you-what-you-really-long-for" warning that James gives?

We want and we don't get.  So we react.  Call it annoyance, frustration, agitation, weariness-gone-haywire, whatever you want...James calls it anger.  And he is says that it does NOT produce the righteousness that God desires.

Because anger is a funny thing.  It actually DOES get us where we think we want to go.  And it gets us there faster.  People listen up.  They pay attention.  Things get done.  A quick temper, a word-spoken-too-harshly, an unloving rebuke, they actually produce the quick results that we think will satisfy us.  And so I use it.  I use anger to secure an outcome, get what I want, arrive at my destination faster.

That destination may be nap time, the completion of mealtime, a quiet home, a clean home, a full night's sleep, a successful shopping trip.  And often, "whatever it takes" to get there includes an angry outburst.

But the warning in James is very clear.  Anger doesn't work.  

If I long for my children to be righteous, anger is not the vehicle to take them there.
If I long to pursue righteousness myself, anger will thwart my desires.  

It may make your children compliant, and it may produce results for the short term, but it is not the path to righteous living. Not for you.  Not for them.  Please know this:  when you find yourself giving into anger, you inevitably forfeit the very change you long to see in your children.  In the end, disregarding the "warning sign" leaves us with hefty fines to pay -- often at our children's expense.

The gospel provides a better way:

God is patient with me, so I can be patient with my children.
God has forgiven me much, so I can forgive my children much.
God does not treat me as my sins deserve, so I can humbly extend grace.
God continues the good work He began in me, so I can walk alongside of my "slow-learning" children.

Don't miss the warning sign.  Where anger produces thorns and walls, love can mold softened hearts and produce lasting change.

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