I found myself breathless as I hung up the phone.
I could hardly believe the words that still echoed in my ears.
I was angry. Very, very angry.
A simple mistake on my part led to a tongue-lashing that set my heart pounding fast and plummeted me into self-doubt. I choked out some excuse to the office assistant and headed to my husbands office and privacy so I could cry.
And cry I did.
And then, because my husband happened upon his very upset wife when he came back to get a start on his paperwork, I cried and also vented my anger to him in short, loud, furious bursts.
"How dare she say that to me?"
"I just can't do this anymore!"
"How could someone be so inconsiderate?!"
"I'm only human! What do they expect of me!?"
It hurt, and it stuck on me, dragging me down. For weeks. I nursed my grievance.
I had some choice words for this woman. I thought up things to say when I would see her in person, which I knew I would, as she was on her way to be a guest at the Bible Camp.
My mind filled with biting retorts. Sarcastic comments. Heartfelt statements expressing my feelings. Words as mean as hers had been to me. They ran through my brain, over and over, keeping me up at night. I was mad, and this was going to take a while to overcome.
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Whether we're angry with our spouse, our sibling, co-workers, clients, the guy who cut us off in traffic... anger, conflict, is a part of life.
And honestly, it's a part of life that I'm not great at.
I seem to believe that if I work hard enough, if I'm prepared enough, if I just put in the effort and the time, I can make everyone happy and avoid conflict all together.
So I work hard, I plan and prepare... and then, when my labor is in vain and someone is upset with me? I take it so, so personally.
In the book "The Good and Beautiful Life," I read that anger, in it's purest form, is actually derivative of fear.
And I thought, No. I'm angry because she's mean. It's not really about me at all.
That still small voice whispered, Really, though? If it's about her, then why can't you let it go?
Why did her comments make me so upset? What was I afraid of?
The answers poured through me like I'd released a dam.
What if I am incompetent at my job?
What if all my work doesn't matter, anyway?
Pouring off the surface, the fears became deeper, darker, more concentrated. Getting to the heart of the matter, like the muddy dregs at the bottom of the reservoir.
What if I'm not good enough?
What if I mess up everything I try to do?
What if I don't matter?
When that lady shouted at me for my mistake, she was out of line. But my heart was out of line, too.
Honestly, if I'd been rooted firmly in my identity, her comments wouldn't have stuck in my heart like barbed fishhooks. So again, I asked myself the questions that change so many things:
Who am I?
I am one in whom Christ dwells.
Where do I live?
In the unshakable Kingdom of God.
And if that's true?
My mistakes don't define me- Christ does. I matter enough to Him that He died for me.
My failings, no matter how big, will never change who I am. Making a mistake can't bring down my world- I'm secure, no matter what.
As I retraced the Truth in my mind, my anger began to fade.
In fact, a few weeks later, when I stood face-to-face with the woman who had berated me, I felt a power that couldn't possibly come from me.
The power to forgive.
The power to genuinely smile, offer kindness, ask how I could serve her further.
Because I'm one in whom Christ dwells, and I live securely in the Kingdom of God.
Her opinions of me don't matter.
My faithfulness and obedience matters. And I'm following in the footsteps of One who came and died for undeserving people (people like me, people like you, people like her).
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