Dealing with Anger – The Cover Up
At age 21, I made a commitment to live full-time for Christ as a pastor. It was a genuine commitment to do what I felt God was calling me to do. I left the Air Force and entered school. I ended up in a school that taught people to reject their feelings. I learned to push aside feelings of physical, emotional, or spiritual illnesses. Even if I had them, I couldn’t talk about it.
I learned how to shut out feelings of anger, rejection, and loneliness. I learned to cover up my sin with religiosity. Not only did I have others who had rejected me, I now had to reject the feelings of rejection. All the hurts, pains, and sin were in this huge pressure cooker. . . just waiting to explode. School ended and I was ready to tell people how to succeed in life. I was ready to teach people about the power of God’s love and His ability to deliver and heal. I myself hadn’t seen the evidence of God’s healing yet.
I soon met Peter and Nancy who were very unusual Christians. No matter what I said or did, they did not reject me. The seeds of love and acceptance began to grow. Because of their love for me, they would call me their “boy.” They became spiritual parents. I was their son in the faith.
One time, my parents came to visit and in front of Peter and Nancy they called me their “dumb kid.” I can remember vividly Peter’s disdain for their comment. He told me parents that I was not dumb. I felt very valued at that moment. Someone defended me instead of putting me down.
Dealing with Anger – Hiding in Ministry
At age 27, I got married to a woman who had two children, whom I adopted within six months of marriage. After two months of marriage, my new wife became pregnant. I thought I had it all! I was a husband, father, and involved in a church. I was still simmering with anger and control issues, while hiding my sin. I became a controlling husband, father, and leader -- practicing the very ways of parenting and authority I had learned as a child. It was how mom got things done, so that was how I would get things done too.
Two years after marriage I was ready to branch out -- with my family and all my internalized baggage -- into full-time ministry. Despite the personal baggage and marital struggles that had shown up in the first two years, we moved to El Salvador as missionaries. While there, I saw many great miracles. Despite our successful ministry, I still struggled with anger, control, and sin. How could this be? How could God use me in His church? I was so unfaithful to Him. Yet, in His mercy and grace, He did use me in ministry.
The marital problems mounted and began influencing our ministry. After nearly three and a half years as missionaries, we returned home. I accepted a youth pastor position and moved ahead of the family to begin the position. My wife and three children were to join me six weeks later once school was over. That never happened. My wife decided that marriage wasn’t for her and filed for divorce. I was rejected once again. I was suddenly a single father.
During the months following the divorce, I attended a divorce recovery class and began to realize that my control issues (while not the only factor in the split) played a great part. The divorce set me on a road to healing. Don’t get me wrong, the price I paid was high. My children were now paying the price of their parents’ sin. It took the shattering of my family to shock me into reality.
Several months later, I met an incredible woman who eventually became my second wife. She became (and still is) my best friend. She came with two kids who didn’t like me, nor I them. She likewise had issues with my children. Mixed in with this new family were my control issues and secret sin.
My wife knew that she had married a man called to “His” church and she was thrilled to marry someone who loved God. Yes, I did love God, but I couldn’t escape issues that were still keeping me from being all God wanted me to be.
A few years later, we accepted a position as senior pastors of a church plant. Despite the positive front, my personal baggage was still eating away at me.
Dealing with Anger – Physical Affects
Anger, control and sin were beginning to affect my physical heart and I experienced severe bouts of arrhythmia. Over a two-week period I was in the emergency room five times with my heart racing up to 190 beats per minute at times. While at a business meeting, I looked at my boss and told him to take me to a hospital immediately. “Do not call an ambulance,” I told him. “Just get me there.” The attending physician gave me a drug that acted adversely to the prescription my cardiologist had given and I flat-lined twice! Within only 3 seconds of my heart stopping, I knew I was dying. My eyes rolled back in my head, and I was headed to eternity. Immediately my thoughts were drawn to my family. I thought, “What would happen to them?” I was more scared for them than I was for myself. I was shocked back to life when my heart, both times, miraculously jump started.
The next day, I informed my cardiologist of what happened. He immediately made arrangements for me to go to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, where a team of doctors would perform an 8-hour operation that would map out every nerve ending in my heart. The team found 3 nerves that were pulsating wrong and throwing me into the arrhythmia. I now realize that while my physical heart was plagued with three damaged nerve endings, my spiritual life was plagued with three problems: sin, anger, and control.
Before the operation, a doctor explained the sinus node, a small muscle deep inside the heart that causes the outer parts of the heart to pump blood effectively. That muscle is called the “heart of hearts.” When I heard that, tears welled up in my eyes because I was reminded of a verse out of 1 Peter that says, “Let your adorning be of the hidden man of the heart.” I realized that my heart of hearts (the hidden man of my heart) needed to be strong. That heart of hearts, the sinus node, was what the doctors were most concerned with. If that area of my heart was damaged, the prognosis was going to be bad.
Nearly twenty-four hours after surgery, the chief surgeon came in and told me that my “heart of hearts,” the sinus node, was perfect. Again, tears began to well up. He went on to say that it was the outer parts of my heart that needed some touch up.
Dealing with Anger – Learning God’s Way
Through many years of my life, I had tried to fix the problems I faced on my own -- through my own power instead of letting God operate. Yet deep inside, my heart of hearts was beating for Him, but the outer parts were not pulsating right.
I have chosen to give up anger, control, and masturbation. Even though I occasionally still struggle, my heart beats more for God than ever. There isn’t a day when I am not tempted with sin, but I must choose to say no to it. The closer I draw to God, the less angry I become. The more control I give to God, the closer I draw to my wife. I am seeing healing in my heart.
Several years ago, my wife and I led my father to the Lord. Today, he attends church every Sunday with my mom who is walking through healing of her past. I hated her, but today, she is a great love of my life. I have forgiven her for the baggage she passed on. I know that this was not premeditated by her. It was learned behavior from her parents that she taught her children.
Jesus told a crowd of religious people who were about to stone a woman for adultery, “You, who is without sin, let him cast the first stone.” I cannot throw stones at my mother. She, like I, followed in the footsteps of the previous generation. There may be people around you who are perpetuating the sins of their former generations. They too may struggle with sins of anger, control, and masturbation. Maybe they have baggage like alcoholism, drug addictions, pornography, or something else. They don’t need you to throw a stone, but rather to be someone they can talk to for love, prayer, support, and healing.