I’m out for a morning run and the day is splendid. Early sun presses through the thick-leafed maples, throwing shadowy patterns on the ground. The sky is tender wash of color. The green growth along the road is dewy, and I can hear the gentle rush of the stream that bubbles and winds alongside the road.
Everything seems peaceful. Not a threat or disturbance in sight. At a glance, you’d never know that a wild storm pushed through last night.
But I move along, eyes open wide, and I can see the tell-tale signs. The rubble-fringe of gravel and rocks that moved along the road in a torrent of rain. Skinny tree limbs, broken and jutting, littering the ground. Leaves and twigs under my feet where the path is usually clear and smooth.
All looks well this morning, but a deeper look brings a different understanding.
And as I run, dodging debris when I have to, I begin to think about people. We can look at someone, sit beside someone, engage one another, but never have any idea of the winds or thunder or dark sky-threat that has passed through his or her life.
I think of the bank teller who was short tempered with my son when he curled his fingers around the countertop and stood on tiptoes to ask for change to take to Bible school. Or the young mother whose bold words rubbed like sandpaper on my skin. Or the neighbor who left an unkind note on my car.
My first response was frustration and fight, but what if I allow the anger, and the offense, to be covered with grace?
The book of Proverbs is rich with wisdom on how to handle anger. Proverbs 19:11 tells us that being slow to anger makes good sense, and it’s to God’s glory when we overlook an offense.
We learn from Proverbs 15:18 that a hot-tempered man stirs strife, but one who is slow to anger quiets contention.
Proverbs 29:22 tells us that a man given to anger causes much transgression. And in the last chapter of Proverbs we’re told that pressing milk produces curds, pressing the nose produces blood, and pressing anger produces trouble (Proverbs 30:33).
I’d rather produce compassion.
I can never really know a stranger’s struggle. And I cannot control another person’s actions or words.
But I am responsible for my own response.
And as my feet pound the pavement, and I breathe the fresh morning air, I understand that being responsible for my reaction sometimes means asking the Lord to give me the strength to let go of anger.
It means that I can ask him to give me a heart of grace. It means that I can then depend on Him to give me the desire and ability to throw the tent stakes of compassion wide–wide enough to cover those who may be in the center of a storm.
And wide enough to allow my own heart to be shaped to shelter others with His love.