This may sound like a simplistic question, but do you ever control yourself? You said the church folks think you’re a godly family, so you must control yourself in front of the church. You also mentioned that your family life isn’t always crazy, so you must control yourself there at times as well. You didn’t say anything about a job, but I’m assuming you work and exercise self-control there?
It would be really good to talk with you face to face, even a phone conversation wouldn’t be good enough. However, God hasn’t given us that luxury, so we’ve got to go at it via email. Praise God!
I can’t keep from noticing that while you have a terrible life history, you are tempted to justify your present thoughts and behavior by blaming the past. I know that’s easy to do, most of us do it way too often. We all think, do, and say things we’ve turned into habits based on how we reacted to life along the way. You had a terrible upbringing. You learned a lot during those years, and you have created many habits that helped you cope and survive during that time. The memories of those events and the thoughts, emotions, actions, and habits that you used to deal with those events are what you are dealing with now.
I didn’t have nearly the upbringing that you’re talking about, and I’m a little bit reluctant to use myself as an example. I’m not asking you to compare my life with yours. I’m simply asking you to take a simple case, and think about what I have done to learn to live in the world God has given me.I want you to use my experience as an example of how God can work in your life to free you from your past, and give you a glorious life now. It is usually helpful to work from the simple and move up the complex as the principles are mastered.
I’m the first born in my family. I was the center of life and attention for 17 months. Then, all of a sudden, another, shorter person entered the scene and stole most of my thunder. A little over a year later, another interloper slithered into the house. Again, without my permission. Finally, a few years later, a third person came along demanding that we all pay attention to her. I don’t actually remember much of this, but my mother told me that each addition had a profound effect on my behavior as I reacted to my changes in status. These changes undoubtedly shaped my life then, and want to have ramifications for how I live now.
These same kinds of things are still happening to me. We get new pastors, new elders, new really smart pastoral students, grad students, undergrad students, all vying for king of the hill status and trying to take more of my thunder. I could spend my life trying to overcome these kinds of obstacles, or I could thank God for these folks and think of them as gifts, meant to help me in my ministry; embracing them and learning to work with them in a way that furthers their lives as well as mine. Over all, by recognizing and rethinking what is going on in my life, I’ve had to get past the hurt of not getting what I wanted, or getting what I didn’t want. The solution has been to joyfully and gratefully embrace the life God has given me.
How does this work out practically? James tells us to joyfully anticipate the trials and tribulations that will inevitably come to us (Jas. 1:2-4). This means that in the same way a prize fighter challenges the world with, “I’ll take on all comers. Bring it on!” we are to challenge the trouble life brings with joyful exuberance.
Phil. 3:13-14 says “…forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” What this means is that I need to forget the evil that has been done to me in the past (also see Heb. 10:17-18) and charge ahead in my walk with God so that my primary goal in life becomes my becoming like Christ, and my helping everyone in my circle to become mature in Christ. Here are some verses that I have in mind as I write this:
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” James 1:2-4
And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. Heb. 10:17-18.
“…present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” Rom. 12:1-2
…”let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” Heb. 12:1-2
…”that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead” Phil. 3:10-11
“For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For he who has died is freed from sin” Rom. 6:5-7
“Him we proclaim, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man mature in Christ” Col. 1:28
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Phil. 4:8)
I know that terrible things have happened to you in your life. And I know that they have had a horrible impact on you and how you think about yourself and everyone around you. But a number of these passages talk about renewing your mind. They don’t just tell you to “get over it.” And I’m not saying that either. Renewing your mind does not mean acting as if what happened did not happen. It means that it did happen, but you don’t have to stay the same person you were. Instead of being defined by the events and people of your past, you need to be redefined by who God says you are. Believe God! Trust that what he says is true and that what your past is telling you about you is a lie. Have faith in God! Your neighbor said you were a loser, a pawn used for his thrills, but God says you are a son, a brother, a friend, and gloriously worthy of Heaven. Let the past go by embracing and becoming a new man.
Notice all the talk about remembering, in these passages. Not remembering, is not the same thing as forgetting. Not remembering is a choice you make about what you are going to do with your time and your mind. When the accuser comes to you and reminds you about things that happened in your past, your response should be to shove those memories aside, by thinking on “these things” (Phil. 4:8). The wonderful thing is that by not remembering in a consistent way, you do forget. Memories only stay in our minds because we think about them, replaying them over and over in our minds. Sometimes they even take on a life of their own and grow. But God tells us that he doesn’t remember our sin (Heb. 10:17-18) and we are supposed to imitate him (Eph. 5:1). When you don’t remember the horrible events of your past, they will fade from your memory until they have no more impact on you. You will be free to be and do what God has called you to do without regret or fear.
We cannot change our past, but not remembering the past and letting it fade into the background, while at the same time learning new things and experiencing new things, all in Christ, can replace the past with a glorious present and bright hope for the future.
Now for practical things to help begin this transformation:
After the next time you have a “daddy tantrum,” I want you do two things.
First, I want you to go to everyone you “dumped” on and apologize to them. You need to confess your outburst as sin against God and them, and you need to ask them to forgive you. This needs to be specific with the actual words, ‘sin,’ ‘forgive,’ etc. used. Also, you need to tell them that you are repenting from that kind of thing and will be making some significant changes in the immediate future. Remember that repentance means changing from what you were thinking, feeling, and doing to what God wants you to think, feel, and do.
Second, this next section help to answer the question, How do you know how to repent? or What to repent of? It also helps answer the question, What does repentance look like?
After you have confessed your sin, I want you to sit down with a notebook and answer the following questions:
1. What happened? Take some time to explain what lead up to the tantrum (historical context of the event), what happened during it, who said what, what buttons were pushed and why, what happened as a result, and anything else you can think of that would explain the current situation. This should be fairly broad in scope. You want to understand what was going on in the event.
2. What were you thinking and feeling as the event was unfolding? Were you tired, anxious, angry already (explain this), hungry, etc. and being bothered by someone who just didn’t understand? The main point is to dive into the event so that you can see how the event unfolded and created the mess you got yourself into.
3. What did you do as a result of the everything coming together? What was the thing you are confessing as sin? What blew the lid off and created what you are calling “daddy tantrum”?
4. What were you trying to accomplish when you finally did what you did? Were you trying to get someone to stop talking? Were you trying to get them to change their tone? What did you want to have happen in that moment when you unleashed your angst?
5. What was the result? Did you get what you were after? Did you get more than what you wanted? How about long term?
6. Where was Jesus in your thoughts, emotions, and action? What would Jesus have asked you to do in the same situation?
7. What can you do to prepare to do what God would have asked you to do, if the same set of circumstances present themselves to you in the future? I can help you with this, but you need to consider answering this one and coming up with godly answers for it. In the same way that an athlete prepares for a game, we need to prepare for life. Practice produces good results. In our case as Christians our practice occurs on the playing field right in the middle of the game. This means we need to learn fast because we are affecting the eternal lives of those living around us.
Finally, have you read this yet? If not, this would be a good place to start.