Lying in his bed, tears running down his face, my son struggled to calm down from an emotional outburst. I came into the room to talk to him about it. Snuggling up next to him on his bed, we talked about what had happened.
“But Mom, you don’t understand. It’s because you and brother irritate me so much. You make me angry. If you leave me alone, I won’t be angry.”
My youngest son has been in serious battles with anger lately. The littlest thing sets him off and he is a force to be reckoned with.
“But Ian, we don’t make you angry. The anger comes from within yourself. It comes from your own sin inside your heart.”
Needless to say, he did not agree with me. Looking back on that conversation and my attempts to convince him that people don’t make him angry, I realized that it took me many years to see that for myself.
For much of my life, I’ve battled my own out of control feelings. Depression has held me hostage many times in a dark cell of despair and sorrow. And for so long, I blamed my circumstances and other people for those feelings. “If only my parents wouldn’t fight so much, I wouldn’t be so upset.” “If only my husband didn’t work so much, I wouldn’t be so stressed out.” “If only my kids would sleep, I wouldn’t be so irritable.” “If only my life would work out the way I want, then I’d feel better.”
I can understand my son’s heart which seeks to blame others for his sin. I do the same thing. I live my life for me and me alone. I want what I want when I want. I expect others to respond according to my desires. When the lady in front of me slows down, I get irritated. “Why doesn’t she go faster. Doesn’t she know how to drive? Now I’ll be late.” When I’m tired and trying to get peace and quiet at night and my kids don’t cooperate with my plans, I get angry–because don’t they know how tired I am? When the day has been long and my husband calls to say he will be late coming home, I get frustrated and overwhelmed. “Doesn’t he know that I need him home? I can’t take another minute of the chaos.”
The sin in my heart seeks my best interest and responds in anger, frustration, worry, stress, and despair when things don’t work out the way I want.
While I wait with growing impatience for someone else to free me from my locked cell, the truth I, I already have the key to get out. That key is the gospel which frees me from every cell I find myself in.
My son is only five and has a long way to go. I give him grace because I know that his problem is a heart issue that only the Spirit can cure. And I point out that he too has the key to freedom.
The journey to holiness is a slow one. God doesn’t reveal to us all our sins at once. Instead, He peels back a layer at a time. And my son has a long way to go.
As much as I’d like to rush the process, I know God has a story for my son that he has to live out. So I walk beside him in the journey, praying each day that God would work in my son’s heart, reveal to him his sin, and show him his desperate need for a Savior.
Because that’s the only cure for a sinful heart.