26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold.” – Ephesians 4:26-27
Friday, 12pm hit me like a ton of bricks. One minute, I was talking and joking with co-workers, eating lunch and surfing through social media and other news feeds for the latest info. The very next second, I fought back tears and an inability to speak about what was going on with me. I tried a couple of times, but the words were blocked by pain, hurt, and rage. From that point on I talked and joked less, my anger hidden behind a facial mask save for my eyes. My coworkers saw the change and instead of asking what was wrong, they maintained distance and left me be. You see, it took a few days, but George Floyd’s death finally got to me, and it wouldn’t let me go.
It brought back memories of my cousin shot and killed by Dallas police 6 years ago this month.
It brought back memories of me being tailgated by a White police person almost until I got home, with adrenaline racing through my heart as a prayer of protection raced through my mind. The fear of what that person saw when they finally drove past me angered me: did they see a Black woman minding her business, or did they see someone who “fit the description”?
It brought back every memory of every Black man and woman whose lives were snatched by the claws and jaws of some wolves hiding in plain sight, under the pretense of protecting and serving communities that don’t always look like them while endangering those who do protect and serve with honor.
It brought up anger such as I haven’t felt since the death of my cousin, something deep and simmering in my heart and soul, along with a frustration and tiredness of the “same old same old”: of the digging up Mr. Floyd’s past as if it justified his life being literally smothered away, of the seeming refusal to understand why “Black Lives Matter” without the automatic defensive response of “All Lives Matter”, of the opportunistic crowds who see the protests and demonstrations as an excuse to act a fool…at the expense of still more lives.
I became so angry, and so tired.
On Friday afternoon I was not okay, and in that moment I did not see when I would be or felt that I wanted to be.
Friday night, I sat in the prayer corner of my bedroom and poured it all out to God, pleading almost to the point of demanding that His justice “…run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream” (Amos 5:24). “Lord,” I said aloud, “People have got to stop fearing and demonizing skin color that doesn’t look like theirs!” I said a lot of other things, amongst the tears, deep sighs, and still that churning anger. Somehow I went to sleep, woke up early Saturday morning, began the usual scroll through my Facebook feed, and became utterly disgusted. Shutting it all down, that day kicked off “No Social Media Day” because all it did was add fuel to what was growing inside me.
Early Saturday morning I was decidedly not okay, which made what God did next such a God thing to do.
Opening the Bible app, the verse of the day was Ephesians 4:26, part of this week’s thought. I looked up to the ceiling, gave the Lord a side-eye glance and said, “You think You’re slick…good one, Lord. Good one.” And in that one moment, the rage that was trying its best to boil over cooled considerably. It still lingered, but without clenched jaw and fist, or the disappointment in unexpected silence. It also tried to come back many times, but that verse stayed up in my mind and heart like a massive shield that would not be broken.
When I wanted to be enraged, the Lord blocked it.
See, Paul’s instruction in this verse didn’t give me (or any of us) license to be –pardon my French—pissed off and act out until sunset. Nor did it invalidate the strong emotions that I had and still have. The righteous indignation at injustice, cruelty, inequality, victimization, and racism is real and true; all of these are contrary to the will and way of the Lord. Plainly speaking, all of these are sin and cannot be excused or tolerated by anyone who is a child of God. Reacting and responding to these moral and spiritual offenses ought to be expected.
How we react and respond makes the difference.
Do we go all “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth”? Of course not. Do we all bury our heads in the sand and wait for this all to blow over? Absolutely not. Following either course does exactly what Paul cautioned in verse 27 and gives the Enemy a foothold in our lives. He already has too many under his influence as it is.
No, we lean heavily on God for the words to speak out and the strength to stand firmly in the gap for people. We call on the power that is in the name of Jesus Christ to bind the Enemy from snatching up anyone else.
We use our talents, gifts, and abilities to bring about positive change in this nation and world which are dying from a clear lack of it. We show this nation and world what the diverse, intelligent, beautiful children of God can do: we show them how we shine.
And every day, we must choose to forgive until the act itself requires no thought. It must become second nature like breathing. For if Jesus could ask God to forgive his persecutors and executioners “…for they know not what they do”, we can forgive, too.
When we do these things, it becomes harder for Satan to find purchase in our souls. It becomes difficult for anger and pain to harden and stay.
It becomes easier to talk and listen to each other.
It becomes easier to love each other.
It becomes easier to accept that we’re all gonna be okay.
Prayer: Lord, You know what we truly need even before we say it. Let Your justice, righteousness, and peace flow through us all, seasoning our thoughts, words, and actions with the love of Jesus Christ. Make us better people, Father. Please. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.