March 02, 2018
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about anger in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. I concluded: “The words, ‘let your anger go’ are easy to type, but are so difficult to practice. A future post will consider some practical ways that could help us less-than-fully-divine humans let go of the anger brewing inside ourselves.” Here goes...
As a young musician, I had the frequent experience of battling a case of the butterflies before a big performance. I never struggled to the point where my playing was compromised, but I didn’t enjoy the unsettled, niggly feeling in my gut before going on.
One of my early teachers talked to me about “getting the butterflies to fly in formation,” an image that sticks with me to this day. My young imagination was able to grasp that eliminating the butterflies was not a realistic goal. However, it was possible to harness the presence of the butterflies and channel their energy into something purposeful. This is the miracle of what I like to call an “energy transfer.” This is not a matter of physics, but of metaphysics! Sunlight to solar panels to electricity is physics. Nervous anxiety to enhanced performance energy is metaphysics.
How is it that some athletes habitually seem to find the zone when the pressure is the greatest? Energy transfer. How is it that some folks in sales perform their best when a big goal is breathing down their neck? Energy transfer. How is that some people’s faith shines the brightest when their circumstances are the bleakest? Energy transfer.
Now to a more difficult topic: Anger. It is a misnomer to say that we can “let our anger go.” I’m more confident stating that my anger can be transferred into an alternative type of energy.
Our nerves and our anger are each a form of free energy. These potencies are gifts! They are full of potential for either good or harm. For example, the energy of our anger is rarely on target when we first experience it. It is usually an emotion tied to our personal preferences. Angry energy is like a swarm of bees. A swarm can go on the attack - or - a swarm can make honey.
We are so ruled by our personal preferences that it takes hard work to mine the righteousness from our righteous anger. It takes incredible will power to extract the justice from our justified annoyances and wield that energy for the sake of others. This is where the sweetness of the honey lies. Redirecting the destructive power of anger into actions that benefit others. Did I mention this is hard work? It is not our natural inclination to think of others when the swarm of bees descends.
One of this Sunday’s Bible texts is from John 2 wherein Jesus fashions a whip out of rope cords and rages against those who turned God’s temple into a strip mall. Jesus had learned how to channel his anger on God’s behalf. Jesus’ value of spiritual things first allowed him to exact a pure, godly fury because people’s souls were being harmed by greed and consumption. He could be honestly angry for the sake of others—and act on it.
At the end of his life, Jesus performed the ultimate energy transfer. At the cross, the full energy of God’s anger against sin was embodied in the suffering of his only begotten Son. In Jesus’ flesh and through the shedding of his lifeblood, Jesus performed the greatest miracle of transference: Anger translated into pure, unbreakable love.
This is the pattern for us as we walk with Jesus every step of the way this Lent: Identify the energies in and around us and allow them to be transferred, transformed and repurposed for the sake of others. Butterflies flying in formation. Tranquil bees busily growing the store of honey. The world around us transformed as redeemed people transfer raw emotion into life giving energy.
Peace to you along the way,