As a young Christian in my early 20’s I was saturated, super soaked, if you will, in Jesus. As a direct result of my new found faith and many hours each day in His Word, I was absolutely filled to the max with joy! I was pretty much happy no matter what. Happy to go to work, happy in my apartment, just happy! God’s love and mercy for me just overwhelmed me (in a good way).
Had you known me then it would have never crossed your mind to wonder if I had any issues with anger because at the time I didn’t. Or so I thought. Truly, most of my Christian life I was so dependent on Jesus; anger was just not in the picture.
Then my husband and I started having children. And it wasn’t immediately that I had anger problems. It wasn’t even with my first-born. But by the time I had my second child, Noah, I started noticing changes. With two toddlers, my time with Jesus went from hours each day to smaller, more condensed prayers: “Oh Lord, just let me make it through the day,” or “Oh Lord, just help me not to hurt anyone today.” (Obviously, I’m somewhat joking!). Not only was I ‘Jesus deprived’, but I was also extremely sleep deprived.
Since we were on the two-year plan it was time we had our third child. I think emotionally I was probably at my lowest and most drained when we had a newborn, a two year old and a four year old. We had no family to come over and give me a break. It was just us, me and my husband. He was in full-time ministry and worked six days a week with one day left over to run all his errands and sleep!
I found myself losing my temper more and more frequently. My emotions were raw, and there were times when I thought I was just going to lose it! Why didn’t anyone intervene you ask? I was, after all, in full-time ministry alongside my husband. Surely, we had a large support group, right? I was in leadership at MOPS. Surely I said something to one of those women, right?! Well, unfortunately, I was a great actress, and having it all together was by far my best performance. Look at me, I’m a pastor’s wife, with three lovely kids, running Kids’ Choir and pulling off two performances a year, and we just bought our second home. I couldn’t let anyone see that inside I was a mess. Looking back, I don’t think I knew how to let anyone in.
I will never forget one of my many wake up calls one night when Hope was in the bathtub. She was about three and a half. Noah was maybe 16 months. I don’t remember all the details, but I do remember Noah was supposed to get in the bathtub and wasn’t cooperating. I lost my temper, and I yelled at him. There was my little Noah standing naked next to the bathtub, and he peed on the floor because he was so scared. Please understand, I’m not proud of that moment. It’s one that pains my heart every time I think about it.
When we moved from Irving, Texas to Bedford, Texas I continued to try and keep it all together. I was very independent and would never think of telling anyone my struggles, let alone reaching out for help. I remember getting upset at Hope, who was about 4 at the time, because she wouldn’t stay in bed and go to sleep. As I went back to put her in her bed, she said to me in her sweetest, saddest little voice, “Mommy, I wish we could move back to our other house”. Since our house was much bigger, I was so surprised. “Why?” I asked. She said, “Because I think this house makes you really mad.” I will never forget her words as they haunt me to this day. I knew I needed help.
It has not been an easy process. It has actually been quite the journey. First and foremost I had to give back control to Jesus. I had been holding on so tightly that my knuckles were probably turning white. I had to throw religion out the door. I had enough of that, and all ‘religion’ did was make me feel bad for not being good enough. I had to get on my knees and finally surrender all my issues to Jesus. And I had to admit that I couldn’t do it anymore on my own, that I needed help. I did have some sessions with a Christian counselor who really helped me to dig into my past. My entire upbringing until I moved out at the age of sixteen was filled with pain and anger. My mom was an alcoholic and would rage at different times throughout my whole life. Most of the time, it was directed at the men in her life and then my step dad. But my brother and I would feel her wrath. She was known to break things, hit things, and throw things.
I guess I was just surprised that it took having three kids for my own anger to surface its ugly little head. I remember after a session with my Christian counselor, she said to me, “Wow, it’s a miracle you’re not totally messed up right now!” And I said, “Oh, that, that’s Jesus.”
We’ve since moved to Colorado. We are in a very healthy church family. I’ve come to realize that we are all kind of messed up in our own way–that’s why we need a Savior. What I have discovered through this journey is that the more time I spend with Jesus, the more peace and patience He gives me. The more I allow Him to love on me, then in turn, I am able to love my kids, my husband, my friends and family more freely, with grace. You see, without Him, I am nothing. I would probably go crazy without my Jesus. It’s true! He is all that is good within me.
Am I perfect today? Have I arrived? Well, sorry to disappoint you, but I will never be perfect. But I have allowed God to heal me from my past, and I am not the same person I was. Less of me and more of Him. That’s a good thing!
I share this story because moms having issues with anger is one of those taboo topics we like to sweep under the rug. We are ashamed. And heaven forbid that anyone ever knew of all the times we’ve lost it and screamed at our children out of anger. The only problem is, the more we hide it, the worse it gets. And the more we try to control it on our own, the more out of control our anger seems to get.
The first step to your freedom is to confess it to Jesus and ask Him to bring safe people into your life. Have accountability with a safe friend and allow her to ask you the hard questions. It would be great if you guys could pray together maybe once a week. Also, keep a journal around and every time you lose control, write it down. Write down how it made you feel when you were done. If you’re noticing that it’s frequent/daily, please don’t hesitate to get help from a Christian counselor either at your church, or have your church recommend one. Don’t say, “I just can’t afford it.” Some Christian counselors offer a discount based on your family’s income. You can’t afford not to.
And always, always, if you know you’ve disciplined your child out of anger, not out of Christian love and normal discipline, but in anger, ask for your child’s forgiveness. This is powerful! What a lesson for them to see that we can humble ourselves and ask for their forgiveness when we’ve done something wrong.
And when you’re about to break the silence about this and you feel ashamed, remember that Satan is the accuser. Jesus does not condemn. He offers love, acceptance, forgiveness, and grace. Which voice is in your head? Choose to receive His unconditional love for you today. Step out and take a chance to make a change. It’s never too late.
I know my kids will read this someday and say, “Really? We don’t remember that!” And I will say, “I know baby, that’s Jesus.”
Ephesians 4:26-27 “Be angry, and yet do not sin. Do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.”
Verses 31-32 “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
P.S. You also have to forgive yourself.
Be Angry [But Don’t Blow it]: Maintaining your passion without losing your cool by Lisa Bevere
She’s gonna blow!: Real Help for Moms Dealing with Anger by Julie Ann Barnhill
The Anger Workbook by Les Carter and Frank Minirth M. D