Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger. So throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage. In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life. (James 1:19)
Have you heard that little saying, "Move or be moved"? There are times when I have moved, sometimes in just the nick of time, avoiding some disaster of some kind. There have been more than a few times I wish I had moved faster, or in a different direction in order to avoid whatever was coming my way. Some of the times I didn't move, or didn't move fast enough, were really times when I wanted to be in control and was just plain stubborn. Have you ever been anchored in place by your anger? It appears anger can be a very effective anchor for many of us - something we can sink our teeth into and really hold onto for a long, long time. Way beyond the request from God for us to move on, we have held onto that thing we should have let go of long ago. However do we let go of what seems to anchor us so firmly into this place of anger, bitterness, resentment, and the desire for retribution? Maybe we need to listen a little closer, talk a little less, and not give that anger such an important place in our lives, but how on earth do we get to that point when we have been wronged by another? I will not paint a pretty picture here - it takes us throwing away that cancerous evil to actually be free of it - even when we think it still has some 'purpose', we have to let it go!
Why does God focus on the ears first and mouth second? I believe we listen to a lot of voices, with our own 'internal' voice being the loudest when we are holding onto a grudge. Somehow we have convinced ourselves that rehearsing the wrongdoing is a 'right' we have and we do it over and over again until the actions of another become ingrained in our thought pathways. The brain is a very powerful thing - whatever we think upon the most often will actually stimulate various 'hormonal pathways' that we will frequent because we have become accustomed to the release of those hormones. When we attempt to deviate from the path created by our constant 'self-talk' about the infraction, we find it is hard to not have that same 'hormonal response' we have been accustomed to experiencing. Go to the fridge night after night to get the sweet thing hidden away there and you will form a 'hormonal response' that locks you into craving more of the sweet thing. Hearing what we are telling ourselves may be hard, but when we realize we have been telling ourselves the hateful story of another's wrong against us over and over again, we might just begin to realize how much control we have given another through those 'self-repeated' words of anger and regret.
To break the hormonal pathway created by all that negative self-talk we have to be willing to take a new path. I know this is easier said than done - those hormonal responses are pretty doggone ingrained by now. It may not seem like it, but the more we take a different pathway, the more the hormonal release will change - we will form a new pathway with even more satisfying release! What can we do to replace those self-repeated words of anger and resentment? We can begin to repeat the Word of God instead. If we will just get into the Word and allow it to really get into us, we will begin to see those new pathways formed. Why do you think I listen to great Christian artists on the radio? Those words begin to reinforce the pathway his Word has begun to carve out in place of those other pathways of resentment and anger. Why do you think I pen our my study of the Word? The repetition of seeing his Word, writing out my thoughts about what he says, and then rereading it reinforces the pathway. Honestly, the 're-telling' of the story isn't easy, but when we allow God to tell us the story he wants for us to hear, repeat, and anchor our souls in, the more those 'positive hormonal responses' will occur. The new pathway will be formed - ingrained in place of the one that was eating away at us like a cancerous growth. Just sayin!
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