It starts calmly enough: the children make it to the breakfast table in plenty of time before school. You wrap your hands around your mug of steaming wakefulness and gaze at your lovely children. This morning is going so well.
Then one brother accidentally elbows another, who howls and offers a hard shove right back. In defense, an arm goes up . . . and the full cereal bowl gets tipped over.
You feel a hot ember of stress land in your soul.
No matter, you sigh. Accidents happen.
But on and on the hour goes and every lost book, forgotten paper and missing shoe is a puff of air on that smoldering ember of stress until it’s a flame. Your hot mug has long since been left to grow cold on the table while you scramble to stay ahead of the roar inside.
Your husband walks calmly out of the bedroom, whistling while he pours himself a cup of coffee. He surveys the hectic scene in his showered, buttoned-down handsomeness and pecks you on the cheek as he sits down at the laptop to check some emails.
There’s no turning back now.
Red-faced, you loudly turn on the children and give full vent to your sadness, confusion and anger.
The yelling tirade makes you feel big and powerful. Meanly you enjoy their shrinking, their downcast gaze. You wield your words like a sword and finally everyone limps to the minivan where you speed off in silence.
After their sullen little faces are dropped at school, you feel exhausted—debilitated by the weight of anger and soul-crushing force of guilt.
With threadbare promises to do better, you wrap yourself up and you go about your day.
Until the next time.
Maybe that afternoon or evening or the next morning—the raging fire returns and the whole family begins to smell like smoke.
If this sounds familiar, I want to tell you two things:
You are not alone. There is a better way.
Much of my anger (and maybe yours, if you really look) has come from unmet or unrealistic expectations and the sense of entitlement that followed.
I have been through seasons of pervasive anger.
I loathed myself, I disliked my children, I resented my husband . . . all because I felt so powerless against this beast inside me that fed on expectations that ruled my life.
When I began to back up my perspective, I discovered I often expected perfection: instantly obedient children, a husband who could read my mind, a house that stayed clean. I expected myself to be able to meet every need before it was spoken.
I expected life to go as I wanted it to. Consequently, I feared letting go; I kept a white-knuckled grip on that false sense of control.
As I waded through the murky waters of all my hidden expectations and false entitlements, I realized: I don’t belong here.
I could let go of expectations, I could release anger through repentance and I could live an imperfect but empowered life.
My mom struggled with anger when I was young. With six children at home and a husband who worked full time and pastored on the side, she was often overwhelmed. She would do great for a while and then stress would pile up and she’d lose it.
We would scatter until the storm blew over, when she would gather us and weep, asking our forgiveness for using her words to wound. We always, always forgave her and to this day, I have no actual memory of any angry outbursts. But she grew weary of the cycle of defeat.
After a fit of rage one day, she came marching down the stairs to the kitchen. I’ll let her tell you the rest:
“Alone in the kitchen I stood against the door and literally sank to the floor, absolutely overwhelmed with my sin and the ugly spirit of my words that lashed against my children. Sobbing, I felt small, shrinking into a sense of utter helplessness. Dad found me there and I remember as he held me and stroked my head lovingly I kept saying, ‘I’m so sorry for the way I hurt your children.’ His words of love and forgiveness were like Christ speaking directly to my soul. I knew I was loved in a way I had never known before.
“I honestly believe I experienced a spiritual deliverance. ‘Perfect Love casts out fear’ and I know part of my struggle came from fear . . . of not being perfect, not being in control, not being noticed and loved.
To this day, I have not experienced that kind of rage again. I have certainly struggled with frustration, disappointment and bad attitudes. But the grace and kindness of Christ Jesus has been a mighty fortress. His LIFE is my safe hiding place. There was no more of me feeling bad and trying to do better.
“No. This was ‘I no longer live but CHRIST lives in me’ (Galatians 2:20). The gift of repentance became, ‘you have died and your life is now hidden in Christ’ (Colossians 3:3).”
An ocean of grace stretches out before us. We alone choose whether we will risk the vast, bottomless unknown or stay in the shallows, kicking up the murky darkness.
My mom dove in that day, and she’s since been my biggest cheerleader as I found the desperation in motherhood to join her myself.
But grace doesn’t shrug its shoulders and say, “You’re doing the best you can.”
Grace whispers, “You can do hard things.”
And now I invite you: Come. There’s room for more and then some.
Live loved. Live delivered. Because you are and you can.