How to Become Slow to Anger
In the middle of a busy day, I found myself having a mental “conversation” in which I was telling off a member of our congregation. Can you relate? I was angry, defensive and offended over a comment he made. This member was bothered that our pastors were allowed to wolf down a meal at our Wednesday night fellowship supper without paying (before running on to complete a 16-hour day of ministry). He even tried to “Jesus” up his criticism by equating our pastors to the sons of Eli the Bible says cheated God’s people. It was eating me up. A situation that did not even concern me was rattling around in my brain, creating all kinds of unwholesome emotions and distracting me from what was my actual responsibility.
Imagine how costly a lifetime of allowing this kind of mess to accumulate and take root could be.
Over the course of a life devoted to ministry, there are bound to be more than a few perceived offenses. But I’ve learned that allowing them to build up in our hearts can render us bitter, paranoid and ineffective. In the middle of this moment of growing resentment, I was reminded of a proverb that spoke directly to my heart.
“He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (Proverbs 16:32).
The inner part of us—not our eternal spirit, but our inner individuality of mind, will and emotions—can have a huge impact on both our physical and spiritual well being. Emotions are powerful. They are not sinful in and of themselves. They are merely a response to stimuli. But it’s never good to just let them run wild. This proverb reminds us that this three-fold inner world (mind, will and emotions) can be regulated. This allows us to be able to use our will to rule our emotions and not the other way around. It’s done by surrendering our will to the truth.
The problem is that we don’t always have the truth in file folder number one in our minds. Instead, we keep this relative, subjective, emotional information in the top drawer ready to be perused and mulled over all day, every day. These patterns of dwelling on the negative can become ingrained. The result is weakness, instability and loss of self-control. In other words, it either consumes us from within or propels us into an outburst. Both are counterproductive to our calling.
What is called for is a daily renewal of our minds (Romans 12:1-2). We need to recognize these mental patterns and immediately take them captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). We need to reload file folder number one with information that is true and worthy of our meditations (Philippians 4:8). In other words, take your mental focus off that one knuckle-headed remark, and set it firmly on the truth of God’s Word and what He is doing all around us.
This proverb speaks of “taking a city.” Plowing over a city or a person, even if it is just in your mind, is far inferior to ruling your spirit so that you remain Spirit-filled and accomplish what God has for you. Let’s be reminded of the spiritual discipline of ruling our spirits through renewal of our minds. It will make you more mighty than an army!
How do you fight to become slow to anger?
Never in my lifetime have relationships been so critical for leaders. Our culture is crying out for authenticity, community and transparency.
As leaders we must realize that:
Show up with intentionality
Relationships begin by just showing up and having something in common.
Relationships are made when working, playing, eating, learning and praying together. Relationships are made while conducting business, getting chemo treatments or sweating in spin class. Even during difficult and painful life moments inside an ICU waiting room or grief class, relationships can be forged. When we share something in common with those around us, there is potential for relationship.
If God has strategically placed us in a time, space, place or experience with others, we must believe He has purpose there. The purpose might just be the people there with you.
Showing up is good, but intentionality says, "There is an eternal purpose in this moment." Intentionality says, "I want to seize it."
Connect with intentionality
Of course, we must do more than show up. We must connect. We must seek a way to not just be present with someone but also actually engage him or her, intentionally. This may require making the first move towards conversation or asking the person out to lunch.
Confession right here ... I've missed many opportunities to connect because of busyness or overly compartmentalizing my life between the sacred and the secular. Such discrepancies are traps that potentially narrow your focus on ministry. We must remember that all of life is the mission trip. Every moment matters.
Our moments invite a wide array of purposes into our every day, from building a bridge in order to share Christ to pouring into young leaders or bearing someone’s burden. Even if the moment is brief, it is a missional opportunity to shine for Christ.
I’ve gone back to school on this in two unconnected, yet relatable, situations. One is my involvement in the local gym where I work out. The second is at our children’s camp with Ed. Yes, showing up was the first step. But, the more critical step was being intentional with the “eternal purpose” of that moment.
While training for a triathlon with a group from our local YMCA, I got to hear the hurtful journey from a new friend. Just one gentle, purposeful question opened a painful door she willingly opened. We were on a long training ride, so time and space was created for honesty and vulnerability. New intimacy was formed as I listened to her hurt, her wounds. One question and one honest answer moved our relationship down the road immensely.
We need to be willing to pursue intimacy with compassionate curiosity. Yes, when we ask "why?" or "how?" or simply say, "Tell me about ...," hearts may open, and walls may come down.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Ed and I whisked away all senior high school student leaders serving in our middle school camp for a midmorning Krispy Kreme run. There, some helium balloons proved to be too tempting. I watched the students go crazy as Ed succumbed and started singing in a "munchkin" voice as well. The students were laughing so hard. Was that sacred? You bet it was. The man who storied the prodigal son and discussed shame the night before could suddenly be silly—wearing a Krispy Kreme hat, his lungs full of helium. The distance from pew to pulpit got shorter. His vulnerability in that moment was of a different kind, yet, it also created a new moment of intimacy.
We need more balloons and helium. They bring laughter and a child-like perspective back into our lives, sometimes creating a type of shared moment that a serious sermon could not. Trivial yes, but still sacred.
As busy leaders, it takes work with great intentionality and yielding comfort to get to places and people that our Sunday morning lives will never easily touch. Yet, life and the world is so much bigger than Sunday mornings, and many of the people we need to touch most won’t be Sunday morning people or be in Sunday morning settings.
Look around you. Where do you need to be more intentional? Where is God telling you to show up and create connection?
We are talking about the hard parts of ministry [part 1] that you may not have been prepared for when this season of life became real. Ministry is hard, but it is worth it. Here are a few more tips from someone who is still learning this role, too.
Single parenting is part of the gig.
Ministry changes when your family grows. Our daughter is 16 months, so we are new to combining parenting with ministry. I had to learn that my ability to participate in everything had to shift. My husband needs me to parent sometimes more than he needs me to volunteer. That, initially, was hard for me because I love ministry and hate to miss anything.
I have set the goal to try and be a part of everything possible and get help with child care when possible. Also, I have learned that when I take my daughter to a ministry related activity, I am single parenting for that time. This is hard but necessary so my husband’s focus can be on the people we are ministering to. Sometimes, I choose the hard task of single parenting through an event versus staying at home because that cost is worth it. That decision, however, looks different in the stages of my daughter’s life and will look different for every family.
Sometimes you will not like people.
An emotion I was not prepared for as a pastor’s wife was a feeling of animosity and jealousy towards some of the people we serve. When my husband comes home at the end of a long day and tells me of the long meeting he had with someone, sometimes my initial response is jealousy because I want to have that time with my husband. Or, when I hear the most recent criticism, feelings of animosity rise towards that person because they attack the very things I love and spend my life for. Those feelings come quickly and with fury. I have to step away and evaluate my own heart before I let my emotions rule. I think by default, because our lives are so wrapped up in community, it is inevitable that a side effect would be the battle of hostile feelings at times.
Sometimes you will feel lonely.
Again, this is an emotion I was not fully prepared for. When you are so surrounded by people and invested in the lives of others, it may be hard to imagine that loneliness could be part of what you are signing up for.
It will be, though.
There will be times when you are not invited, or the conversation suddenly halts when you walk in a room, all because of the influence and position you hold. This is something that will look so different depending on the environment in which you serve and the strength of your resolve. For me, I am so tender-hearted there were times this was hard. What served me best in seasons of loneliness was the linkage I had with other ministry wives who I could reach out to. Those friends from seminary, who were in the same life stage but different places, geographically, I could text and call when the days got lonely. They were lifesavers.
I will encourage you with this truth—don’t isolate yourself. There may be church environments where it is hard for you to participate because of their perception of you as the pastor’s wife, but don’t fan that flame. Though we cannot control others perceived view of us, we can control our instinct to withdraw from an awkward situation. Push in and let your love for the body be known—even amongst those it may make squirm.
Hospitality will heal more than it will hurt.
There is nothing more life giving to me than to gather people around our table and share a meal. For some, hosting people is intimidating. You would rather do anything else in the world. But, trust me, there is no better way to love and serve people. When there is discord in your midst, breaking of bread can heal a thousand wounds. The community built as you share a table is powerful. Do it often and do it well. Don’t believe the lie that it hurts family time or hurts reputation if everything isn’t just so. Believe the truth that extending the hand of hospitality, and welcoming people into your home, will always be a healing thing.
It is a big thing you have been called to as a pastor’s wife. It is weighty and important and possible only by the power of the Spirit. Don’t forget in your pursuit to fill that space well, first and foremost, with your identity as a daughter to the Most High. Let the love you have for the Father, and the remembrance of His grace towards you, be the fountain that fills and overflows to those you love and serve.
This article as written by Lindsey Amick in September 2016 for Flourish. Lindsey is married to Brandon Amick, Associate Pastor of Studentship at LifePoint Church in Ozark, MO. They have one amazing daughter. Lindsey loves leading women and teenagers in small group discussion and Bible study. She also enjoys cooking, reading and hosting friends.You can follow her blog at amickadventures.wordpress.com.
To impact means to have a strong effect on someone or something. As leaders, there are two approaches to impacting the lives of the women around you. It can happen accidentally or it can be deliberate. In this video by Charlotte Gambill for Leading and Loving It, we can learn what it means to impact other women deliberately.
Where do you go to learn about being a minister's wife?
It is our desire here at Refresh to see that each woman has a positive experience in partnership with their husband in ministry.
Bloom wants to provide guidance, support, connection, and encouragement to wives new to ministry through a connection with a seasoned and trained minister's wife using a Connect group created specifically for you. We'll use books to guide us in our conversations about the challenges, issues, benefits, and rewards of being a minister's wife.
We believe when women are strengthen, our families and churches are strengthened, and the ministry of the gospel is strengthened.
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Let us hear from you. Next group starting April 2018.