Yesterday was day 2 of the prayer challenge my wife and I are undertaking. As I mentioned the other day, it’s seemed to start off really well and I am really excited to see what kind of work God does in not only my own heart, but in our family along the way. Unfortunately, day 2 wasn’t as good as the first. I am sharing this in an effort to be open and transparent with you even though it makes me feel vulnerable. I hope that God will find a way to use it in the life of someone reading it.
I’ve mentioned in the past that I’ve had a history of anger and short-temperedness, though it has improved vastly over the last few years and the last few months have seen very little in terms of frustrated outbursts. However, yesterday was one of those days when it reared it’s ugly head. I found myself upset with something my oldest son did and rather than calmly talk to him about it, I overreacted and yelled at him and made him feel stupid. It’s not something I wanted to do, or even something that I was thinking was a good idea. In the moment, I even thought to myself, Why are you acting like this? You don’t want to speak to him like this. Yet it happened and afterwards I felt absolutely terrible. It wasn’t something I thought about, let alone prayed about ahead of time; it was a knee-jerk reaction in frustration to something trivial that escalated as he reacted exactly the way I would have if I were in his position – with anger spurred on by shame.
It was a day of brokenness and frustration. Brokenness over the pain I caused to someone I love so much, and frustration because I’ve worked hard over the last few years to not let my emotions drive my words or my behaviors. The problem is the fact that I’ve worked at it. On and off over the years I have leaned into God and relied on Him to carry me through my strong emotional responses and to change my heart, but too often I fall back into the trap (usually when things are going well) to take up the burden myself again. I pray that this time it will stick.
In the end, my son and I worked it out. I apologized for my behavior and showing grace and maturity he forgave me. I repented of my sin and in time God helped me to accept His forgiveness which I don’t deserve, however in God’s providence He did have something to teach me through all of this.
I’ve read the Book of James countless times over the years, yet the beauty of Scripture is that it’s timeless and the Holy Spirit is able to bring to life something you’ve read over and over in a new and hard-hitting way. The passages came from James 1 and 3 about the nature of our words.
“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” – James 1:26
“And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell… but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” – James 3:6, 8-10
As I continued reading through James today these passages convicted me and reminded me of the importance of tempering my emotional responses to things (something that has definitely been an issue of mine on social media in recent months). These verses have always been there, yet today I think I understand them more fully than I have in prior years.
I’m thankful for God’s grace, and how it extends through my son. One of my greatest fears going back 10+ years has been that I wouldn’t be a good dad, and Lord knows I’m trying my best but my best won’t be good enough without an active reliance on Him each day.