I really love movies about superheroes. For the past several years Dan and I have watched every Marvel movie in theaters on opening weekend or shortly thereafter. Sometimes we have gone to the theater more than once because we loved the movie so much. As soon as the movies are out on DVD, we quickly purchase them and watch them at home several times. I have really become a nerd about the movies. In fact, Dan and I recently decided to watch the movies in chronological order. Why? Because we wanted to watch the story unfold from the beginning.
So over the course of several weeks, we watched all the movies. We quoted our favorite lines, laughed at the funny parts and even cried during some of the epic scenes. I have seen these movies so many times, but I have to say, watching them from the beginning back to back made me see things in a different light. I think when you watch something from a different perspective it most often brings new revelation!
The Avengers was first released in 2012. This movie is the first time many of the heroes from the Marvel universe come together in a movie to fight against one enemy. We could watch this movie 500 times and it would still probably be one of my all time favorites. I remember how excited I was when it came out because all my favorite’s would be in one movie!
It’s hard for me to pick one all time favorite character in the Marvel universe, however Bruce Banner is pretty far up there. After an experiment went bad, scientist Banner becomes the Hulk (a violent, green monster) when he gets emotional. In past movies, Banner had a hard time controlling when he would turn into the Hulk, however in the Avengers he seems to have figured out the secret to only becoming the Hulk when he wants to. During one huge fight scene, one of the other heroes turns to Banner and tells him it’s time “get angry”, suggesting they needed the Hulks help. Banner turns to the hero and calmly delivers one of my favorite lines of all time: “I’m always angry” before turning into the Hulk and helping to save the day.
As we watched the movie for probably the 297th time, I felt myself identify with the Hulk. I have to be honest, I have lost track of how many times I have thought how magical it would be to just stand in a room and break things. In my imagination, I would yell “Melissa smash” and then I would just throw plates at the wall for hours. Afterwards, I would NOT clean the mess up, I’d just take a long nap. When I get annoyed with people, I am quick to say “I will throat punch you” or some other ridiculously violent thing. Before you stop reading because you worry about my mental health, understand I am mostly all talk. The point I am trying to make here is – I am always angry. Seriously, always.
Let me give you an example. I was diagnosed with bronchitis recently, and after being down for several days, Dan was diagnosed with a sinus infection. We were a miserable pair! We were both down for the count for quite some time. I typically clean with all natural cleaners, but since we were both so sick for so long, I decided it would be smart to buy some Clorox wipes to really disinfect and deep clean the house. A few days after purchasing the wipes, I realized the ones I had purchased where for “every day cleaning” and didn’t actually disinfect anything. So basically, I had bought something completely useless. Ugh. I wanted to scream. Why make Clorox wipes if they don’t disinfect?
A few days later we went grocery shopping and I figured I would just grab a new canister and everything would be fine. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that easy. Due to the threat of the corona virus, Walmart was completely sold out of not just Clorox wipes, but every disinfecting cleaner you could imagine. This beyond upset me and by the time we checked out, I was fuming. After we left Walmart, we ran to Sam’s to pick up a few things and we checked for Clorox wipes. They had them… but only in a five-pack.
The thought of buying five canisters of Clorox wipes made me absolutely livid. We didn’t need five, we needed one. For a few minutes I entertained the thought of blowing up Sam’s, but quickly realized that may be just a bit too far. Maybe I could look somewhere else? I really only needed one canister. Ugh. The thought of running all around town looking for a single package of Clorox wipes started to sink in and made me go off the rails. Who has time to run all around kingdom come looking for one canister of Clorox wipes? I angrily snapped at Dan (the poor bystander that just happened to be holding a bag of frozen chicken next to me) about how ridiculous the world we live in is. As we walked to the check out line, I continued to rant to my poor sweet husband about how ridiculous it is to have to buy five canisters of Clorox wipes, and then noticed the rows of beautiful wine bottles. I immediately imagined myself throwing every single one on the ground while screaming. I literally day dreamed about Hulking out in the middle of Sam’s. Let’s be honest, not my finest moment.
Let me be clear before we go any further, I think anger has a place in our lives. It’s a real emotion and I believe it’s important to not only feel our emotions, but also walk through them. While I could probably list at least 57 things off the top of my head that explain my anger (FIVE CANISTERS OF CLOROX WIPES!!), I am talking about a different kind of anger here. I’m not talking about situational anger, I am talking about an “always annoyed” state of mind. I mean seriously, there is no reason why purchasing five canisters of Clorox wipes put me in a place that I day dreamed about breaking all the wine bottles in Sam’s! I am dealing with the kind of anger where I basically walk around ready to throat punch someone when they breathe wrong next to me. If Clorox wipes make me this angry, can you imagine what happens when something serious actually warrants my anger? Y’all better watch out! People should count their blessings that I am mostly talk, because if not, I’d likely make the news one day. Let’s be honest, being one second away from “hulk-level” anger can’t be healthy.
I have spent lots of time lately thinking about anger. I thought about anger so much that one night I googled “What does anger do to the body?” I was surprised to learn that there isn’t just one or two articles related to this topic. There are literally hundreds of articles regarding anger’s effect on our bodies. That night, I read article after article claiming that when anger isn’t managed it can lead to a ton of health issues including (but not limited to): headache, digestion problems, insomnia, increased anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, skin problems, heart attack and stroke. The more I thought about how unhealthy the amount of anger I am carrying around is, I realized something. While there are for sure situations in my life that cause me to be angry, the anger I am carrying around has become a heart issue.
When I realized I was dealing with a heart issue, I turned to the only place I knew to go. I asked the Father what to do. I told Him I felt angry all the time and I need His help to break through and bring joy. I asked him to show me what His heart is regarding anger and He took me to James 1:19. It says this in the Passion Translation.
“My dearest brothers and sisters, take this to heart: Be quick to listen, but slow to speak. And be slow to become angry, “
When I read this, I quickly rolled my eyes and said “Okay, God I will try!” And for a few days I did try, but it didn’t go well. I vividly remember telling one of my snarkiest friends, “I can be quick to listen and slow to speak, but my insides are still boiling with anger.” I will never forget her words back to me. She said, “You can’t be slow to be anger if you are always angry.” Ugh. This felt like a gut punch back to square one and I wanted to throat punch her. However, deep down, I knew she was right. So, again, I went back to the Father and He took me to the same verse. At this point, I couldn’t be more annoyed. He had already showed me this and I was still angry. Didn’t He know I couldn’t be slow to anger when I was already so very angry? Did He know I had reason to be angry? Couldn’t He see the situations I was in? There had to be something else!
Then I noticed there is a comma behind verse 19. Meaning I stopped reading in the middle of a sentence. Can we just pause here for a minute? We need to talk about how important it is to read scripture in context. If you only read one verse, you may miss the entire message! Anyways, I started reading again, thinking maybe I missed the part that says “be slow to anger, unless your name is Melissa. I made Melissa’s with the special ability to hulk out. It’s actually a powerful spiritual gift.” However, I didn’t find those words, instead I found James 1:20 says this in the Passion Translation:
“for human anger is never a legitimate tool to promote God’s righteous purpose.”
Human anger is never a tool to promote God’s purpose? I am not a Bible scholar, but to me this means that when I am walking around just two seconds away from blowing up stores, breaking wine bottles and throat punching people… I am missing it. I am walking around so angry I can’t see what God is doing, and I can’t promote Him. In effort to understand what God was saying I started to read these verses in several different translations. Over and over again, I read James 1:19-20, but the the NIV translation stopped me in my tracks. It says this:
“ My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.“
I turned these words over in my mind for a few minutes and then decided to read on in the NIV Translation. James 1:21 says this:
“Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.”
When I read these words, a light bulb went on. There are so many scriptures that describe our hearts and minds as gardens. If all of the promises of God are beautiful flowers, then the lies of the enemy are ugly weeds. If all of God’s gifts are special blooms then pride, jealousy and anger will quickly steal the life of those blooms. Weeds threaten to take over any garden if we choose not to tend to it. What I love about verse 21 is the reminder that the word is already planted in my mind. The Father gave us the word rooted (Walnuts and the Year We Rooted For) years ago, and since then I have spent time hiding those words in my heart. However, just having the words in our hearts, isn’t enough. It’s like knowing flowers are in the garden, but never watering them or tending to them at all. We have to actively choose to get rid of the filth and evil around us.
How do we know what filth and evil looks like? We spend time with the gardener. He teaches us what beautiful flowers look like so we can recognize the counterfeits and pull them out quickly. James 1:21 is beautifully written in the Message translation. It says:
“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.”
So what now? I know the Father asks me to be quick to listen, slow to speak and even slower to anger. I know my anger will not produce righteousness in my life. Even more, I know what truth looks like. So I am actively working to pull out the lies and renew my mind. For me this looks like listening to worship music, reading His words and meditating on what He has said throughout the day. Yet, if I am being completely honest, I still find myself stomping around life one second away from blowing up. I recently told the Father, I can’t do this. It’s just too hard. I am angry all the time, it’s like I have no self control.
Then Father reminded me of 2 Timothy 1:7. It says this in the ESV translation:
“for God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
Friends, I have quoted this verse my entire life. It’s one of the first verses I remember memorizing. When darkness threatened to overtake me, I would quote the first part of this scripture over and over again. “God didn’t give me a spirit of fear”, but then I would stop. I would find peace in the fact that I didn’t have to be fearful, but that’s only half the truth. God gave us power, love and self-control. Anger doesn’t get to consume me, because I have a spirit of love over me. I can choose to not to Hulk out, because I have a spirit of self-control over me.
Again, I don’t believe anger is always a bad emotion. In fact, I think anger is a normal human response to some of the the things that happen around us. I think it can be really healthy to feel anger. I think anger can lead to positive change. It can push us to leave toxic situations and change situations that are unjust around us. However, I also believe we can be people who do not “hulk out” in anger. Ephesians 4:26 says this in TPT:
“But don’t let the passion of your emotions, lead you to sin! Don’t let anger control you or be fuel for revenge, not for even a day.”
I really wanted to end this post with a list of five easy steps to not be the Hulk (one for each canister of Clorox wipes I had to buy obviously). Can you just hear me now, “For just $19.99 you too can transform from the ugly green monster, to a sweet-natured, lovely person.” I wanted to tell you a huge testimony of what being less angry has brought into my life. I wanted to share how amazingly slow to anger I am now, and encourage you that if I could do it, you could too. However this story doesn’t have a pretty bow to tie it all together yet. I am still walking around most days seconds away from “hulking-out”, and I realize my heart still has a ways to go before I will be face of “slow to anger”. I am actively asking the Gardener to help me learn what the weeds of my heart look like, so I can pull them out.
However, one big thing has changed. I am learning that the passion of my anger doesn’t get to control me. I am working to renew my mind and focused on Psalms 19:14. It says this in the passion translation:
So may the words of my mouth, my meditation-thoughts,
and every movement of my heart be always pure and pleasing,
acceptable before your eyes,
my only Redeemer, my Protector-God.
I can be angry at the situations around me, and still walk in self control and choose not to sin. However, the only way I can do this is to actively pray for my thoughts and every word that comes out of my mouth to be pure and pleasing to the Father. This prayer has changed everything. I may not have an easy five step program, but I do know our Gardner God will continue to help us pull out the weeds of our minds if we let Him. I believe pulling those weeds out with Him produces the exact righteousness He desires.