Today marked something new for me; it was the first time I had to retrieve my car from a towing company. I live at Ducks Village and we’re required to have our parking permits in the lower left-hand corner of our windshields, but really anywhere where it’s visible is fine. I didn’t know about the lower left-hand corner thing for the first couple weeks of living here; basically until I started getting parking citations. One night I was up late and saw the security guard writing yet another ticket for me, so I went to talk to him about it. I showed him where the sticker was and he told me not to worry about the citations anymore. And then two nights ago (which was a bad night for the state of Oregon in case you missed the BCS title game) I got another ticket. I meant to talk with him again about it, but I didn’t see him between Monday night and this morning when my car was towed.
Knowing that this security guard told me not to worry about the tickets and then having my car towed because of them left me really, really angry this morning. Seriously, I was cussing worse than a sailor as I stormed out of my room towards the shower. Before I actually hopped in, though, I went downstairs to start a pot of coffee and in that whole process I was mentally preparing myself to argue my case with every bit of anger I could muster. I was ready to cuss out the security guard, the tow-truck guy and even the office lady if I had to in order to get my car back. But just before I hopped in the shower, I suddenly thought of a Proverb I read a while back; “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city,” 16:32. My huffing and puffing through my apartment suddenly seemed very childish.
During my shower, I decided to let go of my anger. I decided not to argue with anyone, but merely tell the office what happened and see where things went from there. I was talking it over with God and basically praying that I would act more maturely when talking to the office lady than I had when I first discovered my car was gone. It made every bit of difference. In all honesty, I surprised myself with how calm I was when I was talking to the lady in the office and then the guy who towed my car. I didn’t feel angry, I didn’t swear, and I got my car back free of charge. When I was riding out with Tony, my pastor, to get it back, I was thinking about what it really means to put God’s teaching to practice. As I experienced this morning, suppressing your emotions makes it all much easier.
When I say “suppress,” I don’t mean “ignore.” There’s a big difference between ignoring what I feel and not allowing my feelings to control me. Ignoring your feelings allows for them to come back (and stronger) later. But acknowledging them and yet choosing to let them go does not allow for the same emotions to resurface as easily. Instead, it helps prepare your mind, heart, and soul to handle later emotional urges. Spilling your coffee, stubbing your toe, almost locking yourself out of your apartment all become much less aggravating if you practice letting your anger go. Not only do they seem less aggravating by themselves; they wouldn’t have much control over your actions if they were combined into a three-minute span of time (and yeah, they all happened to me this morning after I got my car back).
Jesus telling us that a wise man is one who digs deep and builds his house, develops his heart, on a solid foundation – on God’s teachings – so that when the stresses, anxieties, and frustrations of the world come crashing against our hearts, we’re able to ward them off because we’ve put God’s word into action. We’ve been active participants in His culture; our assurance is in something impenetrable, therefore whatever we may go through in this world has less of a hold over our souls, our hearts, and our actions. His teaching becomes our shield when we put it to action.
When it comes to controlling one’s anger, Jesus is the prime example to follow. Yes, He went a little crazy when He saw merchants selling stuff in His Father’s house – the Temple. But when it mattered most, when He was hanging on the cross suffering one of the most severe forms of torture mankind has ever known, He was able to avoid lashing out at His mockers because He was so incredibly skilled at putting God’s teaching into practice. Even when they put the sponge on a stick and up to His lips, which may have been the equivalent of putting used toilet paper up to someone’s lips (reed sticks with sponges were used to wipe peoples’ butts after using the toilets), He didn’t use mean words against the people who hung Him on that cross. He had such a strong control over his emotions; such a control that only comes from God’s wisdom being put to action.
Better is he who conquers is own emotions than he who conquers cities.