Making peace is what I called it as I tiptoed through my life, carefully navigating those with strong personalities. I loved them, so I strove to make them happy, to keep them content. This is how you balance a happy home and life, I believed. But a tight ball of fear was wrapped around a rock of anger within my chest. I didn’t call myself a coward, I simply smiled my tight smile.
Incidents would arise and my body would surge with heat, as I would grumble inwardly, but stretch my lips once more into that tight smile and just keep going. That’s what love chooses to do, to smile in the face of adversity, to choose to grit your teeth and not speak. Not speaking is wise when what you want to say is harsh and mean, right?
But my not speaking was coming out in other ways besides my pinched pretense of control. I was swishing back and forth around the house, huffing, and the words I did choose to speak were brittle, jagged things spraying off in all directions, though never addressing what I was truly upset about.
My husband sat on his bed looking at me, completely bewildered and I couldn’t understand why. “I can’t be a good husband if you don’t tell me the truth,” he spoke as tenderly as he could. I blinked back the tears. “If you just try to keep everything to yourself and don’t tell me your needs or opinions, I become more selfish and I can’t be the husband God created me to be.”
That’s when I finally heard God call me a “liar.”
It felt like a blow to the chest, impacting my rock of fear and anger. I shook my head in disbelief, I wasn’t lying, I was being kind, considerate, choosing to help and … not speaking the truth. I had become so adept at lying to myself that I could no longer recognize when I was lying to anyone.
I knelt in awkward silence on the worn carpet. I thought I was keeping the peace, I thought I was protecting him, but instead I was sealing him off, building up my anger, harnessing control. I looked up at him, hunched over in defeat, longing to be a godly man, obviously fearing that by my actions I was declaring that he wasn’t up to it. Without meaning to, I was shutting him out and holding him back. Me, the one who thought of herself as his greatest cheerleader.
The rest of that summer was followed by strange episodes. First, I would find myself in a conversation, feeling slightly tense for no reason that I could tell, and then I would walk away, realizing I had held something back, left something out, been less than honest. In other words, I had lied. I would have to return to the person, often my husband, sometimes my children or friends and tell them the truth. All of it.
It was horrible, especially once I realized the one person on this earth I claim to love best after God is the one I do this with the most. After a while, I began realizing sooner in our conversations what I believed to be true and would have to assert myself, tell him what I believed or what I knew. I had to fight to keep myself in the same room, usually in the kitchen, so that we could work through our differences, find true peace and a true balance in our marriage. The rock of anger and anxiety began to melt, and I began to breathe again.
How had I come to my faulty understanding of peace? I had misapplied several verses, taken them out of context and attempted in my own strength to work through them. My intentions were good, but my method was flawed.
In Ephesians 4:26 we are told to be angry and choose not to sin, thereby denying the devil an opportunity. I thought I was choosing the best thing, by not speaking when I was angry and “restraining my lips” (Proverbs 10:19) I was choosing to keep what I envisioned “keeping peace with all men” (Romans 12:18). But imagine my home during my bouts of silent anger, I must have been more like a frost-covered wife. I wasn’t taking into account that Paul, who wrote the entire book of Romans, gave fresh insight through his own words and example on how to be angry, how to speak with open honesty about differences while maintaining truth and integrity. Christ Himself while living on earth showed righteous anger, and He never sinned once, but handled it and spoke truth. He lived the truth, was ridiculed and killed for it, and no deceit was found in Him. (1 Peter 2:21-24)
God showed me that I was stuffing down my anger. In doing so, I was polluting the well of my life. Simply closing my lips so that I didn’t spew out mean words wasn’t bottling it up, though, the anger and bitterness was coming out in other ways. When I am upset, I am now trying very hard to recognize when I am angry, why I am, and where my anger is directed. I try to go to the Source of truth and ask Him to help me with my anger, to thank Him for showing me that there is a way to live at peace, and that is when I follow His footsteps and live a transformed, grace-filled life, forgiving others as I have been forgiven. Only then can I truthfully maintain a heart of thanksgiving. Only then can the words of my mouth be pleasing to Him.
For those participating in Vertias Women’s Ministry’s 14-day #wordsofmymouth challenge, as you read through Romans 12 , answer the following questions for Day 8’s TAKE ACTION:
Why is it necessary to address anger in connection with the words of our mouth or attitudes?
As you read through Romans 12, is Paul addressing individuals, or a group?
What do we need from each other?
What are we to do if someone hurts us (and is it even possible in our own strength)?
What is Paul actually saying, within this context, about living at peace with all men?
What should our fellowship look like if we live as Paul exhorts us to in this chapter?