Pastor and theologian Jack Deere spent the week in group therapy with others who all had a similar story: abusive mothers, passive fathers, and traumatic childhoods. Jack followed the therapist’s instructions, bringing his mother into his imagination for a conversation. He soon found himself screaming in front of the group. Then he did the same with his dad. Then his grandpa. And then he wrapped things up on a more gentle note as he addressed his son who taken his own life. He thought all of these conversations had taken him about twenty minutes, but it had been two hours. His long unaddressed childhood trauma was finally making its way to light for healing.
“I thought you were having a heart attack,” said one of the people in the group. “I’ve never seen that much rage in anyone.”
Anger has a toxic way of taking over our lives. It’s hard to go a week without seeing it burst out somewhere around us, be it at a store, restaurant, or on the street. For example, I watched a kid yell and throw a brick at a car this morning on one side of the church, and a woman curse out some guy tonight on the other side.
I’m not immune to anger. I don’t know where it came from, but it snuck up on me sometime in my adult life to the point that I knew it was time to get a therapist. Little by little he’s helped me get back in control of it, identifying my various triggers and trying to help me figure out why they’re there in the first place.
We often don’t want to deal with such things until they’ve overwhelmed us or we’ve gone too far, but Jesus sees our sin in its infancy and holds us accountable for it then. He wants us to conquer it early before it gets out of control. We may see anger and hatred as entirely different than murder, but Jesus says it looks the same to him. Anger is not a fruit of the spirit and the fullness of its rotten produce is murder—and we’re guilty at the root.
So may we strive to be quick to catch sin and turn it over to Christ. For when we let it grow, it becomes significantly more difficult to chop down. The Holy Spirit would like to teach us a different way to deal with our pain. Will we listen?
*This devotional was created out of the themes of Matthew 5:21-26 found in today’s reading at CommonPrayer.net. Below are the various AI-created pictures I typed into existence via Mid Journey to mock up artwork for today’s post. Check out Jack Deere gut-wrenching memoir, Even in Our Darkness for the story above.