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Changing an Angry Spirit

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When anger grips us, look for ways to re-balance your life; instead of succumbing to its influence, learn to identify clues on how to be a positive and redemptive influence.

From the moment we are born, we quickly develop attachments . . . to food and drink, parents, siblings, our natural environment, etc. As we mature, those attachments rapidly grow into a Byzantine web of roles, constraints, preferences and responsibilities. That web quickly networks across the landscape of our familial, financial, moral, legal, societal and spiritual realms.

Keeping all those orbits of our identity in balance create a happy and purposeful life. The Bible says that Jesus – our pattern for life – “kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52). In other words, the various realms of His life kept expanding in perfect balance.

However, as you may have noticed, we’re not Jesus. We’re all flawed creatures. Our life seems to continually get out of balance. The various attachments of our life – food, drink, housing, marriage, sex, family, religion, citizenship, career, rest and relaxation, etc. – continually call out to us. They keep pulling us into larger and longer commitments, making greater demands, and becoming less respectful of the other realms of our lives.

Keeping them in balance is a lifelong challenge.

The contrast between the ideal of balance and the reality of our own lives is the stuff of novels, movies, music and sermons. The search for balance can produce very funny literature and can also be the territory of great pathos. At its worst, the inability to find balance can lead to addictions, disease, homelessness, crime, prison, and suicide. Not pretty.

But, at its best, balanced living represents the life of Christ downloaded into human vessels. It is purposeful, transcendent, generous, even sacrificial, and yet is marked by the “easy yoke” and “light burden” so characteristic of following Him.

The Springs of Life

As a pastor, consultant, and writer, I have been observing this process for many years. In fact, I’ve had a ringside seat at the great human drama of how people fill, balance and sometimes abuse or abort their various roles in life.

I agree with author Alan Jones, who once wrote, “A human being is by definition a longing for God.”

Alan Jones, Passion for Pilgrimage: Notes for the Journey Home (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1989). p 43.

We are all born with a capacity and a yearning for God. When we try to exist without the living Word of God, we’re like a computer without software: worthless.

Maybe that’s why the Bible says this about our relationship with God:

“My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to a man’s whole body. Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil” (Proverbs 4:20-27 NIV).

If we are to live a balanced life (not “swerving to the right or the left”), then we must be filled up with God. Because He is our Creator, His Word will literally be “life and health” to us.

But, regardless of which “software” we buy for our life, it is all installed through the same “D drive.” Everything enters through our “heart” (not the physical organ in our chest, but the spiritual core of our life). That is the key to, both, transformation and corruption. The Word of God, or the Word of corruption, enters through the heart and begins to take over our life. Then our life changes—for good or for bad.

So the secret to a balanced life is to “guard your heart.” We should post sentries at the gates of our heart so as to only permit entrance to words, or “programs,” which will lead to life and health. All of life will flow from what enters those portals.

Now, you may be wondering, what does all this have to do with anger?

Simply this: anger is one of the main “dashboard” lights in life. When we become angry (or encounter it in others), it tells us that someone’s life is out of balance. When that light starts flashing, wise people know to pull off the road and give attention to what is going on “under the hood.”

In the series of articles to follow, we are going to consider a phenomenon which has turned into a cultural crisis of anger. As you read, you just might pick up some clues on how to be a positive and redemptive influence in the midst of it.

Ed Chinn is an organizational consultant and freelance writer from Fort Worth, Texas ([email protected]). His work has appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, the Washington Post, OpinionJournal.com, and the Fort Worth Star Telegram.

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