Once upon a time there was a little boy who loved baseball. Before long he had joined a little league team. The practices and the games were so fun, but the boy felt sad because his dad was never there to watch him play.
One day he told his dad how he felt: "Dad, I'm sad that you missed my home run last week. You haven't been to any of my games this season. So many of the other dads come and I miss you."
Dad responded by telling the boy that he should be happy his dad was working two jobs to make enough money to pay for him to be on the baseball team in the first place.
This response confused the boy. He thought, "I'm sad, but my dad says I should be happy?" And so the boy never talked about it again. He tried harder at the games and worked to become the most valuable player. Somewhere in the back of his mind he wondered if perhaps he was good enough, his dad would be able to find the time to come and watch some games.
The boy grew older. He excelled in baseball and also in school, but sometimes he got angry for what appeared to be no reason. It didn't happen all the time, but when he got mad, everybody had better look out. One Sunday at church he heard a sermon about anger: "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger..." (Ephesians 4:31). The boy prayed for God to help him get rid of anger. But after a few weeks, he had another big outburst. And then another. He felt like a failure and decided God did not want to help him.
Years later, the boy (now a grown man) heard a sermon about putting on the full armor of God in order to take a stand against the devil's schemes (Ephesians 6:10-18). "That's it!" he thought. "The devil is making me get angry and I haven't been ready to fight him." He mentally pictured putting on each piece of armor every morning upon waking. He imagined buckling on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the readiness of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith with which to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit that is the word of God.
This worked for a little while. But then he had another angry outburst and it scared him. Was his shield of faith not big enough? Obviously some fiery darts were getting through. He sat on his porch and flipped open his Bible to review the armor of God verses. A gust of wind blew the pages to the start of the book of James. He flipped them back to Ephesians, but they fell back to James. As he reached to turn the pages back again, something caught his eye: "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him" (James 1:5).
Wisdom. He knew he needed wisdom to figure out what had become his "anger issue." And so he asked God for it. He even prayed for a miraculous lightning bolt of wisdom to hit him, but it didn't feel like anything was different.
On his way to work the next day, a song came on the radio with lyrics about the truth setting you free. There was that "truth" word again. He had mentally buckled on a belt of truth every morning for months now. What was the truth anyway? He had memorized John 14:6 as a child, the verse where Jesus says He is "the way and the truth and the life." He pulled the car over and cried out to Jesus for the truth. Why did it feel like everything was spiraling out of control?
Over the next few months and with the encouragement of a close friend and a counselor, the man was able to realize the truth - that long ago he had learned to stuff feelings of sadness and loneliness and exchange them for anger. They slowly peeled away the layers and eventually he was able to truly forgive his father. It was a huge relief to give himself permission not to have to be perfect at everything. He found himself laughing more often instead of being sarcastic, and he discovered that God really was helping him get rid of anger and bitterness after all. The truth was setting him free.
• Lisa Jisa and her family have been residents of Ahwatukee Foothills since 2000. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.