This weekend my Pastor, Randy Shuler, preached a message from the Proverbs 16:32 which says, "Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city."
Perhaps in the past I read these words with misinterpreting eyes and surmised, "whoever gets angry is mighty". Anger for the moment, anger in the moment does produce a feeling of might. However, that moment is fleeting. And the elevation of anger is like the loss of oxygen on top of Mount Everest. It is not survivable for very long.
Pastor Randy said something that knocked me off dead center and I hope I always remember this quote. "When you lose your temper, you always lose. You lose respect. You lose relationships. You lose your health."
I have seen anger's carnage impact all three areas of my life: respect, relationships and health. As I sat in the chair wrestling and reflecting with the reality of anger's continued presence in my life the final blow came. As Pastor continued, he spoke about the places anger can be stored. The number one place...
Yup. This point started the steady flow of waterworks from the aqueducts in my eyes. Admittedly, I did not hear the rest of the sermon after this point because like the tape on an accountant's calculator all the stored-up expectations unwound with compounded interest from tenure they amassed in my brain. This was a line item detailed receipt full of unmet expectations I'd been holding on to. Dreams. Hopes for the future. Potential clients. Potential business opportunities. Unanswered prayers. Change I want to see in others. Change I want to see in me. Simple, daily expectations. All unmet completely, or unmet from my perspective.
Since I had done an impeccable job of tabulating these unmet expectations on my metaphorical calculator, they in caused my heart to become hard. My heart was angry because I, until this point on Sunday morning in my church seat, had been unable to let those expectations go. They had just been kept in the storehouse of my mind. This storehouse scene is reminiscent of a favorite Green Day song from my melancholy early twenties called, "The Boulevard of Broken Dreams".
If I am not careful, I can get caught walking along this same boulevard, past dreams I've had that did not pan out. This boulevard can get gloomy. Some may think I should save myself some pain and not have so many dreams or maybe I should lower my expectations. But in reality, it is neither the number of dreams nor level of expectations that is the root cause of the anger. The root cause is my heart - and instead how I deal with the one or ones that are unmet.
The truth of the matter is there is nothing that is certain except God. There is nothing I should place my expectations fully in except for God. I can place my full hope, my full expectations and my dreams on him. He will not fail me. Hosea 6:3 says, "Let's learn about the LORD. Let's get to know the LORD. He will come to us as sure as the morning comes. He will come to us like the autumn rains and the spring rains that water the ground."
So how about you? Do you struggle with knowing how to handle unmet expectations? Do you pout? Or throw and adult temper tantrum? Do you harbor the anger and become bitter? Or have you just given up on all your dreams and expectations - because that seems easier that being let down time and time again?
Whether you are a dreamer, full of expectations or you have not given yourself permission to dream lately you may find you have a hardened heart like I have had. I can't say I have arrived, and that I am not properly managing the unmet expectations from today or let go of all the past, but I am on a journey toward restoration. I invite you to join me in this restoration and of letting go of the anger that has built up. I invite you to be free from the heaviness that anger generates. Live free, live full, live in hope.
A special thanks to Pastor Randy for bringing home another challenging, full of gospel & truth, sermon.