I am caught up by something very interesting at the very moment that has, truthfully, gotten the better of me.
At OneVoice (our college and career ministry at Heartland) last night Pastor Jeff said something very intriguing in his message that has been on my mind for the last 24hrs. He said, paraphrased of course, that our anger is a sign of our immaturity. Immediately of course I thought of how often I get angry at small things... and I was admittedly ashamed at what I thought was a sign of my immaturity, but is that right? I am not coming against my pastor by any means, but I know that we are supposed to study to show ourselves approved... and so I've been on a hunt. The verse that sticks out to me the most is Ephesians 4:26 in which Paul quotes Psalm 4:4 to the church in Ephesus.
"26"In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27and do not give the devil a foothold."
So I get angry, and willfully, I do not sin. But I wonder how many times I have, and not even realized it... and here Paul says we are then giving the devil a foothold. Are my ankles now tied because of the anger that I have allowed to rise up on so many occasions? There are so many instances where I can literally feel the anger rise up from my feet to my head, and before I can (sometimes) stop it I realize that I am acting upon what I have been trying to stifle, and get rid of.
I get angry with customers at work for short-siding me, I get angry with my roommates when they don't take out the trash, or when our apartment is dirty. I get angry when "Christians" say one thing and do another. Sometimes I just get angry. Most people in my life are probably astonished at what I am saying right now because they don't see me get visibly angry, but there are those who have seen and heard what comes out when I do. I do not like this person, but I know that there will be a time when it is used for righteousness. Like Jesus in the temple with the change makers, he was righteously over throwing tables and literally walking around with a whip lashing things... he was ANGRY, and rightfully so. The more I desire to look like Jesus, the more I notice that he is giving me emotions that he walked out here on this earth, and anger is the only one that I am having trouble with.
So back to the footholds business... as I was reading this in Ephesians I heard the Holy Spirit speak to me about a vision that he had showed me last night. In this vision I was sitting in a beautiful garden at the base of a tree. I had this vision once before and in that vision I knew that there was someone walking close to me and I could hear footsteps beside me, crunching blades of grass as they walked. When I looked up to my left I saw Jesus standing there with open arms waiting to embrace me, but in this vision I couldn't hear the footsteps that I was longing to hear. I instantly had knowledge that Jesus was standing behind me, behind the tree, waiting for me to get up and walk to him. And although I was now aware of this knowledge I remained sitting at the base of the tree with a deep longing in my heart to get up and see my Savior, but the longing in my heart was shut up by the fact that I was just feeling too lethargic to move. In my heart I decided that despite my lack of feeling I would get up and see the man that was waiting on me to move. As I stood I realized that there were two shackles around both of my ankles, binding me to the place that I was at. In the vision I asked the Holy Spirit to reveal to me what the shackles were for, and how I could remove them. There was no response on why they were there, but I suddenly had a red pair of scissors in my hand (sometimes I just love God's imagery) and I knew that I had to cut them off with the scissors. In my carnal mind I said out loud "scissors, really?" as though God were joking with me... I mean these were serious metal shackles here around my ankles. Instantly after my statement of doubt I heard "oh ye of little faith..." slap in the tush right? Yeah. So, red scissors in hand, I cut off the right shackle from my ankle with such ease as though the metal were paper. Then I stopped... I felt inside again that I just didn't want to do this... I did not want to cut the left one off of my ankle and inside I felt myself say "do you really want to do this? do you really want to let this go?" Stupid questions. Of course I do!! So I cut it off and I go to move... and I realize that there is another shackle tied to my waist, and I am simply going nowhere. Without giving it a second thought I cut this one off... and long story short I get to Jesus and as I am standing with him he says "it is finished..."
Amazingly moving God/Jesus moment, and I was transformed... but I still couldn't figure out why I had to cut myself free. Until I read Ephesians 4:26... my feet were being held to the place I was in and I could not move. I know that "foothold" doesn't necessarily mean "foot hold" but what the Holy Spirit spoke to me was that I was allowing my anger to hold me in the place that I was in... and agreeing with my anger in the moments that I was angry was the devil's foothold over me. My very anger and resentment over situations and events in my day to day life were keeping me from running to my Jesus, the one place that I ALWAYS want to be able to go to. I have noticed that more and more I am getting angry, and I was just allowing it to take over everything inside of me, and as I was crying out to God about how much I hate deserts He showed me how I got myself there. I had been the one to tie the very shackles around my ankles when I came into the agreement with the devil over the anger that I felt rising up. In God's mercy and grace he allowed me to see that I was keeping myself tied to one place, and although I could "feel" the very presence of Jesus, I could not turn and face him like I had desired. It's in these moments where we feel the most heart wrenched and we often don't know or understand why. But our fleshly anger keeps us from the very face of God.
So I guess that it is a sign of immaturity, and not in my physical age here on this earth, but in my walk with Jesus. I can speak of love and mercy and righteousness all day long, but if I do not know how to redirect my anger and frustrations it does me no good. My spiritual maturity got a swift kick in the tush forward, and I'm beyond thankful for it.