Yesterday I got mad.
Actually, that’s not quite right. “Getting” mad makes me think of pianos crashing to a sidewalk, falling out of a blank blue sky. Which isn’t entirely accurate.
It began as I read a recent blog post by Carlos Whittaker. “Los” doesn’t shy away from conflict, so he was blogging about the “Code Orange Revival” that unfolded at Elevation Church this past week or so. It was a great post. In my opinion, Elevation is a phenomenal church—not because they get everything right, not because I love everything they do and how they do it, not because I want to be Steven Furtick, their pastor—but because God is doing something special there, something that stirs my faith and pierces my heart. Like the 2,200 baptisms they performed last year over a two week period. Book of Acts kind of numbers (and yes, numbers matter).
Los led worship at the revival at some point, and his post referred to both the amazing things God was doing and the critique and controversy swirling around it. Which prompted me to watch a video cast he mentioned.
One of the speakers at the revival (it doesn’t matter who, that would miss the point) gave an important talk about making sure we get first things first—namely, the glory of God. It was a healthy, necessary corrective for a church that sometimes crosses the line between godly confidence and spiritual swagger. As an Elevation “fan” I readily admit and affirm this.
Of course, that’s my “next day” assessment. At the time, I wasn’t so affirming. In my opinion, this brother’s message got lost in a sea of unprofessional jabs delivered in an un-christ-like way. I should say that compared to this guy’s peers (in the Reformed stream), his snarkiness was pretty tame. But trust me when I say that to catch some of the jabs, you’d have to be a pastor.
I’m not going to say, “Ok. So at 12:31: Did you hear that? Low blow. And then here at 14:01…” Because again, that’s not the point. The point is, as I listened, the more agitated I became. My chest tightened, my pulse quickened, my brow scrunched, my blood boiled, and I had to walk away. I found our youth pastor in the sanctuary (a beautiful place to muse and fume), and offered some in-house jabs of my own directed at “those Reformed guys.”
A few minutes later I found myself back at my desk, hoping to feel vindicated. Nope. I was still agitated. But—and I need you to catch this—my angst had frothed up into discernible layers. Anger almost always has ’em.
– Part of me was mad at the speaker for un-christlike behaviour and even misuse of scripture (choosing a scriptural emphasis while ignoring others to make his point in a way that made Elevation look bad). This layer of my anger had a genuinely “righteous” tinge to it because it was reacting to a low blow.
– Part of me was agitated because I knew that beyond my issues with his issues, he still had a point. I don’t like to admit people behaving badly have a point. But since I’m not perfect, I sort of need others to give me that grace, too.
– Part of me was afraid to admit he had a point because I don’t want to find out something I “believed in” isn’t as real as I thought it was. Like old the X-Files mantra says, I want to believe. This fear wanted me to write off the speaker entirely, to put him in a box and shut him up so I could keep believing what I wanted to believe. I was forgetting that something doesn’t have to be perfect to be real.
When I admitted my anger had layers, and that each layer required a different approach to deal with it, I experienced peace. Not Cosby Show niceness, but the kind of peace you get when you’ve been working hard at something in the garage and you figure out how to make it work, bandaids on your freshly dinged knuckles and all.
It’s the peace that comes through biblical, Spirit-led discernment. It can all a spade a spade, enabling me to say, “this is wheat, but this is chaff.” It helps me to reject what is evil, while clinging to the good (Romans 12). It helps me face the darkness in myself instead of pretending the problem isn’t mine at all.
Million dollar hint: Anger is a multi-layered storm within yourself. When you’re angry, part of the problem is always you.