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..: stories

..: Anger and Her Children

I'm not sure how it happened, but I have become addicted to buying things. My life gets hard, work gets stressful, and all I can think about is a new DVD, a bigger TV, a different car. I dream about buying a different car, and how that would solve my problems. Then I remember, no, I had a great car about a year ago, and somehow, I don't remember that making me feel any better.

Read in James this weekend about anger. Don't let it become sin, he says. I always thought the verse was talking about someone who is mad, and in that anger, hits someone, or does something destructive. James also talks about the source of my quarrels - envying what I don't have. They say it isn't my God-given right to have a home, or to have as big of a TV as my friend Ray. But I have become deceived, fooled. I think it is my right. And then I envy.

Back to anger. The stress of life, the strain of home living, the restraint of love, the discipline of committment translate for the cowards like me into anger, into rage. That anger triggers coping mechanisms. My personalized, developed coping mechanisms. One of those for me is to buy things, and divert myself with projects and new gadgets. Not all such mechanisms are bad, but where they take me away from facing the problems when I ought, that is bad.

That's it. That's what the author of James is talking about. Don't let anger become sin. Don't get careless with your coping mechanisms when life makes you angry.

I had a friend Tom in high school. He and I were brothers. One day, he told my friends that I was no Christian. His reason: I talked about stereos, cars, material things. He didn't, he restrained, he thought Christians didn't talk about those things. His slander has bothered me ever since. In college, Tom and his self restraint won him a prominent position in his campus Bible study. Something like Vice President. Of a Bible study. I know, how stupid. Months later, his restraint let go, he free fell into renouncing his love of Jesus. A few months later, he was swearing and cursing God. Tom and I were groomsmen for our roommate. At the bachelor party, Tom hired a stripper. I guess he thought it would be funny.

My friend Sam, the youngest of us, sent the stripper home before she could perform. She wanted to dance for everyone, she said. Sam went toe to toe with Tom, there was screaming and arguing, Tom was drunk, and the groom was passed out on the floor here in the private room of the Korean club. Sam said he'd pay for the stripper, if that would ease Tom's anger. Sam and his family had no money, and he struggled every month to make rent and to pay university fees. But he meant every word. He would find the money. This was not right, and he would stand up for it. This was dishonoring to God. That night, Sam showed me courage. I sat there, a fly on the wall; please don't ask me what I think, leave me out of this.

Then the groom started to turn blue. We wasn't looking good. The argument about the girl abruptly ended, and we rushed the groom to the emergency room. Just steps outside the bar, they dropped his head on the tile floor. Eric vomitted in the back seat of some kid's Sentra. The kid was gracious and kind and handled the mess with ease; the kid was studying to be a pastor somewhere. What are you doing here tonight, kid? Go home.

We got the groom to the ER. But we lost Tom. Driving around the parking lot, I found him, his hands fixed to the hood of a university patrol car. A cop was standing with him. The cop copied down my driver's license information, and release Tom to my care. "If I see this gentleman again tonight" he warned me, "it will be your responsibility."

We left the groom in the ER, and we took Tom home. Tom was sobbing, saying that he had killed the groom. Rich tried to calm him. Tom hit him in the face, ran down through the garage and into the night. Down the street, and out of sight.

I was upstairs when it happened. Ran out into the street barefoot. Tom must have ran in the direction of the ER, I'll go South then. I ran just a block that way, and found him. He was sitting on the sidewalk, crying.

Sat down next to him, exhausted. Must have been 3am by now. Maybe 4am. Some bachelor party this turned out to be. Tom, I've known you for 5 years or more, and you've hated me for most of them. But I remember all the religious events we went to together, and that high school Bible study we started. I'm responsible for you tonight, the cop said so. Remember that time in 12th grade we took Ben to that local outreach event, and when the pastor gave the altar call, Ben quietly wept in his pew, seated between us? You did nothing, but I asked Ben if he wanted to know God better. We prayed the sinner's prayer that night, me and Ben. But you said that I shouldn't have. You said that Ben should have answered the call on his own, and now, his prayer was insincere. Still can't believe you said that.

I don't know. That was so many years ago. Ben was at the bachelor party tonight wasn't he? He went home when the vomiting started. Wise.

Tom and I layed there on the sidewalk, our backs on the concrete, seeing nothing in the sky above. Neither of us had changed, and still had our good white shirts on. Of course, neither of us cared. Tom said some words of reconciliation, I don't remember what they were. And then we walked back up the hill to our apartment.

Tom, you had anger, you took the easy way out and let it become full blown hiding from God. And it hurt, didn't it? I could see it in your eyes for months. I don't want that in my life; I choose to bring this anger to God, and keep it from giving birth to sin and death. The death part creeps up on you quietly, and you end up dead, and you don't even know it.

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