I’ve been working two jobs full-time for roughly 3 weeks now. I did it for a little over a year when I was 24 or 25 years old. I am not 25 years old anymore. What I have learned is that as long as I am well rested, well fed, and things are pretty well going my way, I can be a pretty decent person. I can fulfill my list of things I have set up for myself that in my mind make me an okay sort of a guy (I try to deny the existence of such a list, but deep down, I know its there. You probably have one too if you look hard enough). But going on 3 to 4 hours of sleep at night, not eating right, and not seeing my wife and son (at least not seeing them awake) took its toll on me pretty quickly.
I have been angry, quick tempered, grumpy with my wife on the few occasions that we have had to sit down and talk, and just an all around jerk to be around. There are a few people around me who have said that I wasn’t as bad on the outside as I felt on the inside. But I suspect they were just being nice. Even if they were telling the truth, my insides have been boiling. Basically I have become myself in the 8th grade!
I am 30 years old. You would think that I would know better by now. But obviously I don’t. I was so angry at a customer at the day job that I decided it would be a good idea to take it out on an old pallet on the loading dock. It was one of my most shining moments as a human. I haven’t punched inanimate objects in years. Suddenly I was in eighth grade again, punching a wall because Darnell Lyerly said that Heavy Metal was for devil worshipers. It was then that I realized…finally…once again…that I am in desperate need of help. I absolutely cannot be a decent person on my own power.
Of course I have my reasons and excuses. There is the aforementioned insane work schedule. There is the lack of sleep. There is even the fact that the customer was honestly acting like a spoiled child who did not get her way. But it still comes down to me. I allowed my anger to get the best of me. Try as I might to always put on the face of a happy, healthy, and decent person, I failed. Try as I might to force myself into actually being a happy, healthy, and decent person, I failed. I was trying to reach deep down in my insides and find reserves that simply weren’t there, and to call upon those non-existent reserves to hammer my will into submission. All of this is on my own power because, I hate to admit it, I still want to be my own savior. And that is nothing more or less than my denial of God’s sovereignty over the universe and my place in it.
Proverbs 29:11 teaches, “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.” So, does that mean that we should just take our anger, roll it into a little ball and swallow it? Should we put on some false calmness? Should we pretend to be the zen master when our insides are boiling? Of course not. But neither should we allow our anger to overwhelm our reason. I may well have been justified in my anger toward this customer. But it was foolish for me to let that anger boil over to the point that I lost it on the pallet. The pallet wasn’t doing anything to me. And to be honest, the pallet won the fight. It’s a week and a half later and it still hurts!
There is a righteous anger. There are times that the Holy Spirit inside of you cannot tolerate something. You should be angry when the House of God is turned into a den of thieves. You should be angry when you see children going to be hungry when we have the means to feed them. You should be angry when people are being oppressed. In other words you should be angry because God is inside you, and God is angry. You should not be angry because some lady upset you because her furniture was going to be two days late! If my anger is because someone is being mean to me, or hurt my feelings, or expects more from me than I think I ought to have to give, then it is about me. That is ego. That is a pebble in the vessel.
I don’t have to ball that anger up and swallow it. That is not healthy either. But I have to, once again, return on my knees to God. I have to ask God to show me where I went wrong. I have to ask God to help me see that pesky bit of ego that is still filling up the places in my heart where God wants to be. God wants an empty vessel. Ego is like putting rocks in a vase. God wants to be the water that fills the vase. A vase full of rocks cannot be filled with much water, and it is therefore useless to the one who wants to fill it.
The good news is that we can be grateful for these bits of insight into the dark little caverns of our selves. When you realize that you are acting like a first-rate jerk, it tips you off to the fact that there is another ego-rock you didn’t know about. If you didn’t, from time to time, trip over your ego and fall flat on your face, you might just go on forever dragging those stupid rocks around. Robert Anton Wilson (futurist writer, philosopher, definitely not a Christian, and not for the faint of heart) has what he calls his “cosmic schmuck principle.”“The Cosmic Schmuck Principle holds that if you don’t wake up, once a month at least, and realize that you have been acting like a Cosmic Schmuck again then you will probably go on acting like a cosmic schmuck forever; but if you do, occasionally, recognize your Cosmic Schmuckiness, then you might begin to become a little less Schmucky…”
Ol’ Bob and I definitely part company when it comes to how, on whose power, and why to become less schumcky, but the principle applies. It is easy to beat up on yourself (or a pallet) when you realize how you’ve been acting. But that is just another form of schmuckiness. Francois Fenelon said, “Our pride is disgusted at our faults and we mistake this disgust for true repentance.” There is a part of me that is angrier at myself for losing it on the pallet than I was at the lady who I allowed to make me that angry to begin with! That part of me is my ego, and it is in the way of what God wants to use me for. The mistake, and the shame at the mistake are both coming from the same prideful heart. Thank God for bruised and bloody knuckles and a bruised and bloody ego that reminds me once again that I need the love and rest of Jesus.
“As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you…” – Isaiah 66:13