My grandfathers had serious anger issues. They were both abusive and my parents had both experienced it, either first or second hand. My father used to tell a story of how he disagreed with his dad or second-guessed him and how my grandfather hit him and knocked one of his teeth out. My mom’s dad never hit her, but he hit my grandmother and my uncles. At least that’s what I remember about the conversations that I had with all of them.
Needless to say, my parents had strong feelings about anger issues and violence. In nearly 40 years, I can only count on one hand how many times that I really saw my father get angry. While he got mad plenty of times, he just never “blew his stack.” He never raised a hand to anyone and he always kept himself in check.
I’m a different story. I’ve never been a patient person. I have a tendency to lose my cool quickly if I’m not careful. When I was younger, my parents saw that come out enough times to make them worry. They wanted to make sure that I knew my family history. Not sure that anger is genetic, but they wanted to assure me that it was a problem in the past history of the family and they were not keen on letting it be passed on.
Over the years, God’s gotten a hold of me and sanded off some of my rough edges. I am far from perfect, but I’m better than I was before. I continue to strive to be sanded, although I know I can’t do it myself. I’m grateful for people who have been patient with me over the years.
Every once in a while, something happens that just sets me off. Fortunately, it’s not that regular of an occurrence. The last time that I really lost my cool was about 2 ½ years ago, and I still have the door to prove it.
It was January and my wife wasn’t feeling well. Our two boys were a handful, especially the younger one. He was about 2 ½ at the time and was successfully getting into everything. That day, he had managed to fall on the drawer of the Playstation 2, rendering it useless. Everywhere that I’d turn, it seemed that he was destroying something. I’m probably over-exaggerating the issue, but that’s how it felt. I can assure you that his big brother probably felt similarly.
Although I knew there was a strong possibility, I hadn’t really considered the fact that my wife was pregnant. We had talked about it before and felt like a third child might just push us over the edge. I was still trying to get through seminary, my parents had moved closer to us 2 months before, and overall, we had started to establish some kind of “normal” as a family of four.
Call it the perfect storm. The day that my son, the “destructor,” was breaking stuff, my wife revealed to me that we were going to be a family of 5. I’m not sure what else was going on in my head as I came to the door of my sons’ room. All I know is that everything had come to a head and in frustration and anger, I slammed my fist against the door. I can honestly say that I wasn’t expecting the door to give way, I thought it was stronger than that, but it wasn’t.
That was sort of the beginning of a season of frustration. 2 weeks later, my mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I have wrestled and struggled through the past 2 years and every day, as I walk to my boys’ room, I am reminded of my frustration that came to a head that day in January. We never replaced the door and it stands as a constant reminder to me.
I didn’t leave it there to beat myself up. It’s kind of an Old Testament thing, to be honest. Over and over again in the Old Testament, God calls his people to set up some kind of reminder of his provision to them. They would often take stones and gather them so that every time anyone walked by, especially their ancestors, they would see the visual reminder of what God had done for them.
A hole in a door stands as a visual reminder of what I have been through. It’s raw. It’s honest. It’s broken. One day, it will be fixed, but I’ll still have the pictures to prove that it was there, they will stand as a reminder to me of where I was on that day in January of 2011. They will remind me that I am a work in progress, that I have come so far, but I still have so far left to go. They will remind me that my anger has gotten the best of me before and I can’t let it happen again. They will remind me that even out of brokenness and ashes, God makes beautiful things. Every time that I look at my daughter, I get that reminder too. What a gift!