One of the justifications Amy used in her pursuit of divorce from me was the fact that my anger was out of control. In those days, the hostility shown by me had reached a point where my actions would literally instill fear in her. Of course there was never any real justification for my anger. It mostly reared its ugly head when I became frustrated, ashamed or perceived that I was being disrespected. The petty issues that would ignite these outbursts were so small and insignificant that looking back now, I can’t even recall them. But as I ponder the moments of conflict and status of my spirit at the time, I recognize that it was my spiritual heart condition that led the way to destruction.
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1:19–20
The beginning of Biblical counseling marked the starting point for a turning of the tides in my life. As the truth of the Word was penetrating deep into the uttermost parts of my soul, I was being transformed into a person that was patient, compassionate and loving. I’ll admit these characteristics did not come naturally for me. Only by the grace of God did these seeds bear fruit in my life. Unfortunately, by the time they did, Amy had already lost hope.
As we continued down our journey towards divorce, I was very intentional about displaying the opposite of what Amy had been used to seeing for most of our marriage. The more I spent time in the God’s Word and listening to Biblical instruction, the easier and more natural it was for me to act the way Christ intended. But Amy was very sceptical of the transformation. Any deviation from the straight and narrow path I was following would reaffirm her belief that I was the same old angry person. Someone incapable of change.
One particular evening sticks out in my mind as an example of when my anger caused a great deal of damage to the cause of healing and reconciliation. I’ll share it now…
Roughly five months into the separation, Amy had asked if I’d be willing to go to a picnic type event at Micah’s school with the rest of the family. I can remember being so encouraged that we’d have the opportunity to do this together as a family. I had told others how much I was looking forward to it and spent considerable time in prayer asking the Lord to use it to draw our family closer together. It started out well enough. The boys were getting their faces painted and we were eating food from the local vendors. By all accounts, we looked like a typical family. I remember asking Amy if she’d like to go out with the boys and I for some dessert after we finished there. At first she wouldn’t give me a direct answer. But after some pressing, she revealed she already had plans. It wasn’t the answer I wanted to hear and so I allowed my fleshly emotions to take over. The anger and frustration grew as we headed back to our separate cars and then proceeded to “exchange” the boys for the weekend. I was angry at the situation and how terrible it was for our family to be in that position. At the time, I felt like it was a righteous anger. After all, I wasn’t the one wanting to split up our family. I wanted marriage restoration. She wanted the divorce.
But what I had failed to realize at the time was that I was placing the desire for marriage restoration before my devotion and allegiance to God. Yes, God wills for families to stay together and for marriages to last a lifetime. That’s what I was desiring. It wasn’t God’s will however, for me to get angry and frustrated when the timeline I had setup for restoration didn’t line up with the Lord’s.
Scripture teaches us the most important commandment is to love the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind. When we elevate a desire for something above Christ, even if it is Godly and just, it becomes a sin. Had I understood this precept early on, perhaps restoration would have come sooner. I may never know. But what is certain however, is that our God is a jealous one. He alone is worthy to be praised. May we keep our focus on Him and remain in obedience and holiness even as we rightfully pursue marriage restoration. Hate sin and divorce, but do not let anger and the quest for righteousness produce iniquity in your heart and life.