I know this was stupid, but last weekend, I did two hours of yard work, despite the fact that I had a severe sinus infection. It all happened because my wife was outside planting bulbs, and I just couldn’t handle the fact that she was laboring in the yard while I sat inside and rested (which was exactly what I needed to be doing).
It wasn’t long into the process of blowing the leaves, mowing the whole yard, and fertilizing the grass before extreme annoyance set in. In addition to feeling frustrated by the painful sinus pressure in my face, the extension cord on the electric blower kept getting tangled with my daughters’ bikes; and the wind started blowing the leaves in the opposite direction that I was trying to move them.
Annoyance quickly morphed into anger, which I barely contained when my daughters tried to turn the yard work into playtime with Dad. No matter what I said, they didn’t seem to understand that I just wanted to get finished and get in bed, and that every interruption slowed me down a couple more minutes.
My annoyance was stoked when they would try to yell something over the sound of the blower. I would yell back, “I can’t hear you!” after which they would either give up, or I would relent and turn off the blower to talk to them.
Finally, my oldest daughter started repeatedly yelling something at me, louder and louder, while I got more and more annoyed.
“I can’t hear you!” I yelled.
She yelled even louder, and I hollered back, “Do you understand that when this thing is running, I can’t hear what you’re saying?!?”
Then I turned off the blower.
“But Daddy, I can hear you,” she said. “I was trying to tell you that I love you.”
Lusty, Fleshy Me
I felt like such a loser. I was disappointed at how irritable I allowed myself to get over things that were actually pretty minor. So I went on a counterproductive 24-hour guilt trip that ended the next day when the Holy Spirit reminded me of a passage in Scripture that got to the heart of the issue: “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish” (Galatians 5:16-17, NKJV).
Those words sound like they apply to people who struggle with sex addiction, substance abuse, or anger management issues — not me.
I’m the guy whose wife calls him “Tigger” for a nickname because of my sunny optimism. My friends describe me as upbeat, grateful, and cheerful. And I am all of that — until a critical mass of things don’t go my way, and that’s when the battle really begins. That’s when I figure out that under my sunny disposition, I can be short-tempered over things like blowing wind, enraged over uncooperative extension cords, and unkind to two little girls under age five who just want to play with their dad.
“[T]he fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). And if the only time I’m experiencing that fruit in abundance is when things are going my way, then I’m not actually walking in the Spirit. I’m just enjoying the benefits of an agreeable personality that’s hiding a selfish, sinful nature that still hasn’t been tamed by the Holy Spirit.
These moments when we lose control over circumstances and find ourselves boiling over with anger, frustration, impatience, lust, bitterness — whatever — they are a blessing, an invitation to recognize that we still need Jesus as badly as we ever did.