I am a seeker of peace. I cherish healthy, intimate, and genuine relationships. I hate disagreement and I can’t stomach strife, so much so, that I will often foolishly continue an argument with those I love past what is reasonable in order to achieve “peace” now. As you would guess, this usually serves me terribly. It leads to disagreements and brings relationships into bigger problems than I was originally trying to fix. I and my husband have spent countless late nights unnecessarily fighting battles that shouldn’t have gone where they went because I was sure the only way out of a miscommunication was more words, more explanation, and more effort. I could sense that this wasn’t working or productive but was pretty sure it was the only way to deal with things. Besides, the Lord tells us to “not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26) so what choice did I have but to force resolution on a hairy argument at 11pm?
But you know the God I’m praying to (or I hope you do!) and you know how good He is. I am thankful that he wouldn’t allow me to stay there. Just a few nights, He back gave me a powerful image for what I was doing to my marriage (and the other relationships in my life) by requiring quick resolution. He answered my hearts longing by frustrating my plans.
My husband and I were discussing something so small that I honestly don’t even remember what it was (isn’t that how it always is?) when we got into an argument. We were separate and on the phone when it happened and over the course of an hour or two, went back and forth with a few escalating phone calls separated by frustrated hang ups. It had been a long day with the children and I had been planning to use his time out of the house that evening to take a bath for the first time in a long time.
So the water is running while we’re arguing, and I began to realize that my relaxed state of mind had gone down the drain. This is making me even more angry then necessary. Our last call ends in a rough tizzy and my husband is no longer taking my frantic-wife-callbacks (embarrassing to admit) so I grumpily decide to climb in and wallow my sorrows away in a Dr. Bronners Lavendar bath.
Much to my horror, I had run the tub too long, and it seemed that I was now out of hot water. The bath wasn’t the toasty glory I had been looking forward to all day, it was actually kind of chilly.
Of course, I whined . Of COURSE, as I rolled my eyes to the sky and justified another reason to be annoyed with my husband, and my life, and my God. Aren’t you glad the Lord is gracious to us in our self pity?
I was faced with a choice. I could accept that I had run out of hot water and enjoy the bath I had (which really wasn’t cold, it just wasn’t hot) or, I could try to fix it. Unfortunately for me, I hold unreasonably high standards not only for myself, and my relationships, but also my “me time” and this bath just wasn’t going to cut it. I turned on the faucet hoping that in that short moment it had warmed up and was ready to fill my tub with cozy goodness. I, unfortunately, was greeted with cool water which quickly became cold. I let it run a little longer, hoping and believing that it just needed time to warm up after climbing three flights of pipe to our top level condo home, but it didn’t. In fact, it was getting colder by the moment, and so was the water I was sitting in. As the realization sank in, the memory of the bath water I had earlier actually seemed pretty warm and comfortable, and I wished I could go back. I couldn’t.
While considering giving up and climbing out, I realized t it would only feel colder when my feet hit the tile floor, and there was some rough skin on my heals that could use a little tending to. The tealights I had lit in the corners were still pretty beautiful too, so I decided to stay.
As I was sitting there, uncomfortable and remorseful for both of the situations I was in, the Lord had my attention. I began reflecting on the conversation I had just had with my husband. Like my bath, our conversation had gone cold.
In the same way that the water wasn’t what I wanted or hoped for, neither was the argument that had gone on with my husband. I had tried to “fix it” like I did the tub, but in comparison with where we were now, it really wasn’t much to get upset over in the first place. Not only had I refused to let the small infraction roll off my back, I’d pushed so hard to fix it, that I’d ended up letting it go long enough that both my husband and I myself were out of life giving warm words. Continuing the conversation was just like adding that freezing cold water to the tub.
Yes it was disappointing that we were in the situation we were in, but continuing in the battle was NOT going to improve anything. There were no words to be found that could have fixed it in that moment. Our hearts needed time with God. We needed softening and humbling and ministering to from the Lord and our own will power wasn’t a good substitute for the work of the Holy Spirit. For the first time in my life, I could actually see the benefit of letting the difficult situation rest for a while; I saw the end of my own abilities and was forced to acknowledge my very real limitations to fix things. In the same way the water heater would need time to warm the water within, our human hearts needed time to be warmed by the Lord. I was prideful to think otherwise.
After a few somber moments of reflection in that tub, both my heart and my feet had been scrubbed clean and were feeling new and fresh. I was aware of the issue, and thankful that the Lord had allowed me to be uncomfortable enough to see it. With reasonable hope that water would be warm, I bolstered up the courage to try to fix my bath once more. I turned the faucet up and toward the left, and beautiful, comforting, hot water flowed. Soon after, I called my husband, and wouldn’t you know, there was warmth there too.
The bible does say not to let the sun go down on your anger, but in the same verse it says, “In your anger do not sin”. I’m not in any way attempting to dispute the Bible, the Bible is boss, but perhaps I need to get a more well rounded view of what the Lord says about anger in his word before I devote myself to a half verse that I may have taken out of context. These are some verses that have ministered to me and lead me closer to freedom in regards to my anger.
“For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” James 1:20
“Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.” Proverbs 14:29
“Starting a quarrel is like a leak in a dam. So stop the quarrel before a fight breaks out.” Proverbs 17:14
“A person finds joy in giving an apt reply — and how good is a timely word” Proverbs 15:23
“A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.” Proverbs 29:11
“A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.” Proverbs 15:18
“Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Think about it overnight and remain silent”. Psalm 4:4 (This verse seems contradictory to Ephesians, but writer Shaunti Feldman discusses their relationship in her book “Biblical Secrets to a Happy Marriage”and in a devotional that can be read here.
I pray we can go forward in humility and awareness that peace is a fruit of the spirit and not our own human efforts, acknowledging the limitations of ourselves and our spouses, and taking the time to rest in God’s presence in the midst of disagreement, allowing him to warm our hearts like a furnace warms our tubs, and stop filling our lives and our marriages with cold water.
In Christ’s glorious and freeing love,