Proverbs 15:1 (NIV)
A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Yesterday morning I encountered a very angry person.
Belligerent and hostile.
The verse above came to mind as I prepared myself for dealing with the situation. God was encouraging me to be gentle no matter what. Even though I had nothing to do with the events that made this person angry…even though I would be on the receiving end of hostility I had not caused…even though my kindness would slam into the wall of a bitter heart.
I was determined to be kind and cheerful.
I had the benefit of perspective.
I understood the dynamics were deep…rooted in a history I had nothing to do with.
I would like to tell you that my gentle kindness melted this hard and angry heart quickly, but it did not. Many hours later I started to feel the strain of his anger on my own emotions.
A gentle answer in the face of wrath can grow tiring. I was truly expecting to see anger give way to compassion and understanding…but as the day wore on it seemed futile.
But in our last moments together an amazing thing happened.
Wrath finally turned away.
I knew all day long it was wrong to treat you that way. I knew it wasn’t your fault but I was so angry and I wanted to take it out on someone. So I just kept trying to make you angry. But it’s not right and I’m sorry.
I knew in that moment only God’s gentle love could bring peace to an angry heart.
His heart. My heart. Your heart.
He felt better when he made peace with me.
He felt a relief to get it off his chest.
He said so.
Tears burned my eyes as I accepted his apology.
The reality of God’s love pressed until hurt gave way.
It always does.
I’m still caught off guard by the power in surrender.
Clearly see the storm of strife my own harsh words stir so easily.
Again and again I know only trusting Jesus is essential.
I don’t care about which denomination is right or if trick-or-treating is acceptable for Christians or if I can spout off the right lingo that lends credit to my projected level of spiritual maturity.
I used to care. It about ruined me.
I’m not interested in the game…the snapshot…the advertisement. Just because I say what sounds right doesn’t mean I own it. Doesn’t mean I live it. My fine words and Sunday smile don’t define me. Don’t tell the truth about me.
I smirk at this idea that my children dressing up and getting candy from our neighbors invites evil into our home yet my gossip, anger, strife, selfishness and pride do not seem to be problems worthy of taking a stand.
Nonsense. Snapshot. Quick-fix.
I’d rather be a flat-out mess and let Jesus sift my soul and come out genuine and changed than pretend I’ve got it covered.
I’d rather live somewhat sloppy but honestly.
His love is real. His presence healing. His mercy and willingness to aid and rescue me over and over and over surpasses what I can grasp or mostly allow myself to receive.
What’s real? The dying man tortured and in agony hanging from a cross for me so I can finally be loved as I am and then love as they are.
Creator just a breath away. I put myself back on the ledge because I can’t stand the safe and counterfeit place where I talk and talk and talk about all I believe but never really live.
My imperfections beam at me. My sin accuses.
And yet His grace assails my heart.
Brushes away my tired attempts and failures like so many crumbs–because crumbs they are.
Jesus is the Bread of Life. The Darling of Heaven.
Power to live and know and own the things I profess comes only in surrender. It is never the stand I take on issues, the denomination I belong to or the bumper sticker on my car that makes me who I am.
I am who I am in the little moments.
The smallest choices.
The permission I give or deny myself.
I am who I am in the words I speak, the forgiveness I extend, the degree I let go of professing and bend to being.
Sometimes the smallest moments of surrender…the harsh response traded for a kinder, gentler one…are our undoing.
We see Him do what only Crucified-Pride can do.
We witness Love.
And remember the point of it all.