A few weeks ago I shared anger lies that keep us in bondage. If you haven’t read that post, I encourage you to get caught up. I believe that’s where victory with anger begins: meditating on God’s truth about our anger. This week I’m going to share 6 powerful ways to overcome anger. If you’re like most people, you will still experience anger that isn’t perfectly controlled. But you can have a huge improvement in this area like my husband and I have.
As a review, anger is a normal human emotion. It’s only sinful when we allow it to hurt us or others with our thoughts, words, or deeds. Oh, that’s all, right? For some of us, expressing anger appropriately is more of a challenge than for others. We need Holy Spirit power to have victory. Praying for change and meditating on God’s Word are the most powerful tools in overcoming anger. But there are six more ways we can seek victory over anger. I will tell you what they are in a moment, but I have to tell you a funny story about myself first.
I read that Teri Maxwell of Titus2.com felt guilty for becoming angry with her children when they didn’t pick up as they were told. Teri went on to say that she had found freedom from this inappropriate anger with her children. As a psychologist, I thought that her anger was a normal emotion and that she needed to cut herself some slack. Teri graciously offered to send me the audiotape “Freedom from the Spirit of Anger” by Dr. S. M. Davis of SolveFamilyProblems.com if I would listen to it. She sent it to me and I planned to listen to it when I was driving somewhere by myself. When I went to look for it, I couldn’t find it. I was embarrassed and guess what else? Angry. I was angry at myself for misplacing it and angry at my kids whom I automatically blamed, too. I did eventually find it — it was right in front of my face, really — and listened to it in the car. After listening, I was fully convinced that anger was a problem for me. I was determined to overcome anger as soon as I got home.
“The problem with that was absolutely everything made me angry.”
Within a few minutes of returning home I was in tears. I knew I had a serious problem with anger. But that was also the turning point for me. If you feel yourself being irritated, annoyed, impatient, or outright angry a lot, know that I can relate. Here’s what I recommend.
#1 Be committed to self-care.
I was exhausted, hormonal, and doing everything for everyone when my anger was the worst. Lack of sleep, no exercise, and no breaks will make you a ticking time bomb if you’re prone to anger.
Get enough sleep. I used to think that I only needed seven hours of sleep. I have to have eight and during certain parts of my menstrual cycle (sorry, guys) I need more. I don’t need a psychological study to tell me that sleep deprivation makes people irritable, do you? Do everything you can to go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time. If you don’t get all the sleep you need because a child or something else kept you up, take a nap. That’s an order!
Get exercise. Exercise is critically important for preventing outbursts as well. Exercise releases muscle tension and releases feel-good chemicals in your brain. If you exercise vigorously enough (and you should with your doctor’s clearance), you’ll be too tired to yell. Exercise enhances our self-esteem, too. The better we feel about ourselves, the less likely we are to express our anger inappropriately.
Take a break. Self care also means we take a break. I’m an extrovert. I’m recharged by being with people. But after days of being with demanding, needy little people with no break, I’m at risk of a blow up. I need a friend to watch them, a mother’s helper to play with them, or my husband to take over so I can get away for a while. This isn’t selfish. This is the most loving thing I can do for my whole family. If you never take breaks, you’ll have a hard time refraining from anger.
Self-care includes cleaning up and organizing. Much of the time when I’ve yelled at the kids to clean up, I’m really angry at myself for not being consistent in doing our chores. Pick up, put things away, and declutter because you’ll feel good. The bonus is you’re teaching your children good habits. For more on this, listen to the podcast episodes I did with FLYLady.
After self-care, it’s important to identify your fears. Why? Because fear is an anger trigger for many of us. Many of the times I was angry with my kids — when they were fighting in church, had broken something, or weren’t obeying me — the real problem was my fear. I was afraid that other people would think less of me if my kids weren’t behaving. I was afraid anything that was broken would be very expensive or time-consuming to replace. And I was afraid that I wouldnt’ be able to control my kids. Your fears may be different from mine, but if you don’t address them, you are likely to get angry a lot.
Think of Satan, our enemy, like a Navy Seal instructor. What he does is identify our fear and then uses it to try to make us angry or give up. If we want to succeed in our parenting and homeschooling (which is probably harder than being a Navy Seal!), we have to know where the enemy is likely to attack. We have to overcome our fears. It has taken me years to be much less worried about what other people think of me and my kids. God and my husband’s opinion matters most to me. Veteran parents don’t judge us for misbehaving kids because they’ve been there. If they do judge us, that’s their sin and not ours. My fear of having things broken was just silly. My kids matter so much more to me than my things. But my anger was saying otherwise. They have cost us some money and time in repairs and replacements, but it’s been a small investment that’s just the cost of parenting. I eventually realized that my fear of not being able to control my kids was self-fulfilling. The less in control I felt, the more out of control my kids became. Most kids want to please their parents. Believe that with God’s help you can be the parent your children need you to be. Despite my fears, all my kids are potty trained and know how to read. Believe that you will do whatever it takes to raise your children well and your fear will decrease. What fears are triggering your anger?
#3 Sign a kindness contract.
The third powerful way of overcoming anger is to sign a kindness contract. Agree with your family members on what isn’t an appropriate expression of anger. You’ll want to include yelling, name calling, slamming doors and the like. But you’ll also want to include passive aggressive expressions like refusing to speak or sulking. When you violate the contract, your kids and spouse (if you’re married) will have permission to say, “What did you say?” or “What did you do?” as a reminder that you’re in violation of the contract. Of course, you can also do this with other family members. A kindness contract will create accountability in your home and will help you see how often your anger is being expressed inappropriately.
#4 Assess your risk throughout the day.
The fourth powerful way of overcoming anger is to assess your risk throughout the day. If we have a problem with anger, it’s usually something that seems to come out of nowhere. But if we are introspective at all, we will recognize the risk and can prevent it. Here’s what I mean. When you get up in the morning, ask yourself if you have any risk factors for getting angry. Did you sleep poorly? Does one of your kids seem unwell physically or emotionally? That may tap into fears of feeling out of control or having to take time to take them to the doctor. At lunch time, ask yourself if you’ve had a lot of hassles that could contribute to anger. Did Junior lose his shoes again? Were you late getting somewhere which tapped into fears of looking bad to others? At dinner time, ask yourself how your energy is. Have you had some exercise? Have you had a break? Do you have any worries that could trigger anger?
By staying aware of how you’re feeling, you can prevent the enemy from taking advantage of your weakness. Instead you can take appropriate action.
#5 Take action when you’re at risk.
The fifth powerful way of overcoming anger is to take appropriate action when you are at risk or are already feeling angry.
The first action to take is to leave. Obviously, you have to make sure your children are safe. Some safe ways of leaving are to go outside with the kids, put young children in a crib or infant seat or ask an older child or your spouse to supervise while you go to your room or for a walk. Let the kids watch a movie or play a video game so you can have some time. Don’t drive when angry because you’ll be distracted. But do walk away.
The second action to take is to breathe. Once you have gotten away from people, take a deep breath. Let it out slowly. As you do, notice what you’re thinking. Much of the time we are awfulizing. We are telling ourselves that things are terrible, out of control, won’t get any better, driving us insane, and on and on. No wonder you’re feeling angry! Often our thoughts are related to the fears that we have.
After breathing, believe. What is the truth of the matter? Are things really that bad? What would God say about your circumstances? Is what’s upsetting you really too big for Him? What would your friend say? Take a moment to pray that you’ll believe the truth about your situation. If you can, talk to a friend or your spouse about what you’re feeling.
Go back to the situation only after you feel better. If you have to go back to the situation before you’re ready, communicate to others that you’re stressed and need their support. Say something like, “Mommy’s having a hard day. Can you give me a hug to make me feel better?” If possible, engage in an activity that relaxes you. Order pizza for dinner. You can do this!
#6 Respond to setbacks.
As much as I believe in the steps I’ve just shared, the truth is you’re going to mess up. You’ll yell or sulk or slam a door. The last step is to respond to setbacks. This may be the most important step of all. When we lose our cool, we can believe the lie that we are hopeless, that not even God can help us. We’re horrible mothers. We ought to send our kids to school and just give up. But that isn’t the truth. We gain victory by once again apologizing and asking for forgiveness. We gain victory by determining what went wrong and how we can do better next time. We gain victory for forgiving ourselves. That’s been hard for me. I feel like I should be better than what I’ve been in this area. But I’m human. It’s a weakness for me. By God’s grace I have come so far in gaining victory over anger. I know you can do it, too.
Which of these tips do you think will be most helpful to you? Let’s chat about it on Facebook.
Anger is one of the most discouraging problems for parents. It creates fear, guilt, and even hopelessness. If it’s your struggle, confronting the lies you believe about anger is the first step in overcoming a problem with anger.
I’ll begin with a bonus lie: psychologists don’t struggle with parental anger. Not true. It was one of my biggest battles early on in my homeschooling. Unfortunately, I’m not one of those moms who can claim she no longer gets angry at her kids. But I can say that the improvement has been significant. I have yelled, been overly harsh, and even split my knuckle open after I smacked the counter in anger. I have said things I wish I could take back, made my kids cry, and have felt like an all-around awful parent as a result of my anger.
Right now I hope you aren’t regretting that you’re going to be getting advice from me on this issue! I do believe that every mistake I’ve made helps me to help you. I hope you agree. If you do, let’s get started.
First, anger is a normal human emotion. The feeling itself isn’t a sin, but the way we express it often is. Anger always begins in the mind with our thoughts. If our thoughts aren’t true and we act on them, anger will be a besetting sin — one that exercises power over us. So let’s examine what I think are the most common lies we believe and act on.
#1 They made me angry.
You probably recognize this one from your kids. “He made me mad, so I hit him.” You might have responded with, “We don’t hit, even if we’re angry.” But we have to address the lie, too. No one can make us angry. No matter how horrible junior behaves. No matter how awful the treatment, how big the disappointment, how outrageous the behavior.
No one, not even Satan, can make us angry. The only person who can bring about your sinful anger is you. Why? Because you’re the one who interprets what someone else does. Two days after my first baby was born, my mother-in-law told me I looked like I had another one in there. I did not get angry — even with the emotion of anger. I could have told myself that she was joking. I could have told myself that I did in fact look like I had another one in there. Both thoughts would have helped keep me from getting angry. I could have had thoughts that provoked me to anger, however. “She is trying to humiliate me,” for example. What I actually thought was, “She has Alzheimer’s. She doesn’t remember that it isn’t appropriate to say that. She loves me. I love her.”
People don’t make us angry. Our thoughts do.
#2 I can’t control my anger.
This lie is related to the first. Other people provoke me and I can’t help it. I relate so much to what Terri Maxwell said about this. She noted that she could be yelling at the kids one minute and sweetly answering the phone the next. If we couldn’t control our anger, we would be yelling at everyone — our friends, slow cart pushers at the grocery store, and even our pastor. But we don’t. We save our sinful expressions of anger for the people we love most.
Why is that? Because the people we love most tap into our greatest fears and frustrate our deepest desires. We don’t trust people outside of our home to forgive us our angry fits, but we do trust that we’ll be forgiven by our spouse and kids. Just because that’s usually true doesn’t mean we should continue to sin against our family with our anger.
The lie that we can’t control our anger stems from the lie that we can’t control our thoughts. Perhaps like anger, an initial thought cannot be controlled. With my mother-in-law I might have had an initial thought that she embarrassed me. But I wouldn’t have to hold on to that thought and add to it. The biggest lie in thinking that leads us to anger is that we know what someone else is thinking.My child is trying to make me miserable. He doesn’t care. They think I’m a slave. We do not know what our kids are thinking. Our kids don’t even know what they’re thinking. It’s pointless to ask why a child did something wrong because they honestly don’t know. Do you know why you do things you know you shouldn’t do?
2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Obviously, we can control our thoughts. Colossians 3:8 reads, “But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” Obviously, we can control our anger, too. Jesus is our example who gives us the power to control our anger. The New Living Translation of Isaiah 53:7 reads, “He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word.”
#3 I have righteous anger.
This lie is usually justified by pointing to Jesus’ example in getting angry and overturning the temple merchants’ tables. The problem with this argument that we have righteous anger is that it must only be about how God is being dishonored. If we are honest, we will admit that our anger is about us. We have been kept from getting something we want; we’ve been humbled; we are feeling guilty; we are afraid. James 1:20 says that our anger does not bring about the righteousness of God. Even if we did have righteous anger, God frankly doesn’t need it. He has done a very good job of handling people who dishonor Him from the beginning.
We sometimes mean by righteous anger that we are justified in being angry or that anyone would be angry under the circumstances. That belief doesn’t mesh well with Matthew 5:22: But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”
Our anger is most likely not righteous anger.
#4 Anger is the only thing that works.
When I was practicing as a psychologist, I heard this a lot. I still do. The only way I can get my kids to obey me is to yell, to get angry. Reb Bradley who did an interview with me for the Homeschool Sanity show said in essence that if that’s the only way you can get your children to obey, it’s because that’s what you’ve trained them to do. Kids know they don’t have to listen to you because there will be no consequence UNTIL you blow your top.
A quiet voice can work to discipline your child. So can consequences, positive and negative. But you have to use them consistently. For most parents, anger seems easier. I will explain in an upcoming episode how to make discipline easier so you don’t have to get angry.
#5 Venting is a good thing.
When I first began practicing, I believed this lie. We worked with patients who suffered abuse. We encouraged them to vent their anger. We had them scream and rip up old phone books or punch pillows. There is some wisdom in asking patients to stop denying their feelings. But the research and experience tell me that venting is not effective long-term. Patients who had a great venting session weren’t any better in the days that followed. In the hospital, venting didn’t hurt anyone. But in our homes, venting can hurt the people we love. In our selfish desire to get everything off our chest, we may leave family members unable to get our hurtful words out of their heads.
Don’t think that venting to other people about your family members is the thing to do. Have you ever had the experience of retelling what your spouse or child did that made you mad and you find yourself getting angry all over again? Venting this way not only keeps you angry but can tarnish other’s view of your family members. There is absolutely a way to ask for prayer and advice without venting or dishonoring your family members.
There is also a way of expressing our needs and feelings in a positive way. I’ll share more about how to do that in part 2 on anger. But I’ll leave you with this Scripture that should have taught me venting isn’t a good thing. Proverbs 29:11 says, “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.”
#6 Anger is no big deal.
One of my favorite resources for dealing with anger is Dr. Davis’s Freedom from the Spirit of Anger. In this video. Dr. Davis describes a father who only loses his temper every couple months. Dr. Davis said that for his family that was like living next to a volcano that only erupts every couple of months. Anger is a serious problem that can lead to divorce, emotional problems in children, and even death. Anger may increase the risk of heart attack.
Freedom from the Spirit of Anger DVD
By Dr. S.M. DavisThe most destructive force in family life today is the anger of one or both parents. But rebellion in youth seldom goes away until parents deal, not just with anger, but with their spirit of anger. MANY PEOPLE WITH A SPIRIT OF ANGER DO NOT REALIZE THEY HAVE IT. James and John had such an intensive spirit of anger that they wanted to call down fire from heaven and destroy an entire village full of people. Yet they were deceived so that they didn’t know that their spirits were putting off such a spirit of anger.A spirit of anger is also very contagious. Proverbs 22:24-25 explains how fathers or preachers who are blind to their own angry spirits develop followers with the same spirit. Here is an explanation of why ALL of man’s anger is wrong. Here also are 10 STEPS TO FOLLOW TO GET FREEDOM FROM THE SPIRIT OF ANGER. One father testified, “All my life I had a problem with anger. I finally dealt with it when I heard the Spirit of Anger’ message. Three weeks later my wife pointed out to me that my little boy no longer had a problem with stuttering!” “Freedom from the Spirit of Anger”is the second of 5 Sermons in the “Anger Series.”
Anger leads first and foremost to anger. Angry parents tend to have angry kids. Anger from one spouse leads to anger in the other. Proverbs 22:24 says, “With an angry man do not go.” Angry people are dangerous. Short of that, they’re no fun to be around. God takes anger very seriously. Psalm 37:8-9 says, “Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.” Anger can lead to a multitude of evils. We want to overcome sinful anger through the power of the Holy Spirit.
One step to take now is to download a free printable of the truth about anger. You can meditate on these truths and accompanying Scripture each day to help you stop believing this lies about anger. This resource is made available free of charge to subscribers to Psychowith6. Click the image below to claim yours.
Which of these anger lies has been the biggest problem for you? Let’s chat about it on Facebook.
I met Mandy Kelly of Worshipful Living through Periscope and got to know her through HomeschoolScopes, a Facebook group for homeschoolers who enjoy live broadcasting. I got to meet Mandy in person at the 2:1 Conference in 2015, worked with her in sharing one another’s materials, and enjoyed keeping up with her on Facebook. On Tuesday morning, March 21st, 2017, I heard the news that Mandy and three of her family members had died in a house fire. It was a shocking tragedy that had everyone who knew her (and even many who didn’t) reeling.
A friend told me what a pastor had said at her husband’s funeral after his tragic death:
“Let’s not focus so much on how he died that we forget how he lived.”
Those words are so appropriate to Mandy and her family. To honor Mandy’s memory, I want to share with you how she lived and what I learned from her about worshipful living.
#1 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 2 Timothy 2:24
My first impression of Mandy was that she was a kind lady. I watched a broadcast she did on what to wear to the 2:1 Conference. At first blush, that topic doesn’t seem very spiritual. But Mandy was trying to make nervous newbies like me feel comfortable by telling them what to expect. She also clearly communicated that she would befriend us there if no one else would. Mandy was a teacher — a kind teacher. It’s my desire to share the kindness of Christ with others in my teaching the way Mandy did.
#2 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16
Mandy was a Christian woman, a Christian blogger, and a Christian speaker at a time when Christianity is becoming less and less popular. While I shrink from sharing my faith on Facebook (where it is often reviled), Mandy let her light shine for all to see. She could because there was no hypocrisy in her. I aspire to be the light that Mandy was.
#3 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33
Mandy’s post on Jesus having a quiet time reminded me that my time with God needs to come first each day. The truth is that too often I don’t wake up thanking God and seeking prayer first, but my phone and social media. I am living worshipfully now first thing in the morning, thanks to Mandy.
#4 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12
I saw Mandy go through the disappointment of infertility and an adoption that didn’t happen. But I didn’t see Mandy give up hope. Her article on biblical joy and her attitude in trials has taught me to persevere in tribulation, too.
#5 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Mark 1:11
I am so inspired by the way Mandy blessed her daughter with these words on Instagram. It is my prayer that they will comfort her daughter and guide her all her life. I do try to bless my children with my words, but I’m not sure I do it to this level. It’s my aspiration to spend more time blessing my children and just listening to them instead of always being in a hurry.
#6 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Philippians 1:21
I hadn’t seen Mandy’s Periscope on finishing well until after she had gone to heaven. She explained that when we are face to face with God, we know that death is better than life. I so often live like this life is the best there is, when that is at odds with the truth of Scripture. Mandy’s eternal perspective (which is so like the apostle Paul’s) has reminded me to stop sweating the small stuff. I know that I will see Mandy again. I will be able to rejoice with her at how her time spent here (thought short) glorified the Lord in a mighty way. I will be able to thank her for all she taught me.
I am tempted to feel sorry for myself that Mandy has gone home. But I choose instead to focus on gratitude for having known her. I encourage you to spend time on Mandy’s Worshipful Living website and her Periscope channel. Mandy with her kindness, light, glory giving, patience, child blessing, and eternal perspective will teach you worshipful living just as she has me.
Please read what other blogging friends of Mandy’s have learned from her.
I have had times of profound peace in my life and this isn’t one of them! Because I know what it feels like to have no worry and no hurry, I am determined to find it again. If you want to be able to rest in the Lord, no matter what storms rage around you, I have help for you.
First, I want to share a story with you. I was seriously ill. My chronic nasal allergies were the worst they had been. I had the most severe heartburn I had ever had and I wasn’t pregnant. I had other major GI problems, including trouble swallowing. I was losing hair. My right leg and the right side of my face were numb. One day when I was out running, I found myself going off the road and I couldn’t stop.
I was terrified that I had multiple sclerosis. I hoped that it was related to a food allergy, so I ate only the most obscure foods I had never had before. I lost tons of weight, but the symptoms remained. I took hundreds of dollars’ worth of supplements. I stayed up all hours of the night researching my condition.
I did not have peace.
After prayer and fasting, others’ prayers and fasting included, I knew what the problem was: I was afraid. I was afraid that I couldn’t trust God. I was afraid that I couldn’t trust my husband to stay with me if I did have MS. I was afraid I was going to die. I was honestly afraid of just about everything. I noticed for the first time that my gut was twisted in knots every time I was running late for something, every time someone seemed mad at me, every time I had messed something up.
But when I realized what the problem was, I prayed and repeated “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding” every time the fear came. Not only did all my physical symptoms disappear, but I had a profound sense of peace. I had a speaking engagement at the time and forgot my notes. Normally, my stress level would have been through the roof! But I felt completely and totally calm. I was able to have my son email me the notes and all was well.
In the years since then, I have lost that complete, blissful sense of peace I had. I want it back. I need to practice the principles I described in the article I wrote for Intentional in Life. I pray that you and I are both blessed by pursuing peace in the right places.
I wish I had known about truth journaling when I was in graduate school, pursuing a degree in psychology. I was overweight, living in a disorganized mess, and in debt. I’ll stop there because the list would be very long otherwise. I tried many things to change my life at the time, like a new diet and New Age teaching. But nothing had the power that I needed to change my life.
I had wandered away from God. But even once I’d made my way home and was established as a Christian psychologist, I still struggled. I felt helpless in my fear, anger, and sadness. When various things went wrong in my life, I would lie awake replaying words and events. Even a few years ago, I procrastinated projects like Grammar Galaxy because of multiple fears. I wasn’t making progress in changing bad habits.
Truth journaling reminded me of the assignment I often gave to anxious clients (and used myself). I asked clients to record everything they were anxious about and to write next to it an action step they would take. That action step might be to pray or to take a small step to address the problem. This process is very helpful for people who ruminate about things. But truth journaling is different.
In truth journaling, we write down what we are thinking that is upsetting to us. For example, one I used early on with truth journaling is:
My friend hasn’t called me back, so she is mad at me.
Before I began truth journaling, I freaked out over thoughts like this. Sorry to destroy your illusions about psychologists! I would respond by imagining every terrible interaction I might have with my friend. I would have trouble sleeping. I wouldn’t be able to concentrate. But after truth journaling, I would talk back to this thought in writing.
She is probably busy. If she is mad at you, it’s her responsibility to tell you. There have been other times she hasn’t called you back and she wasn’t mad. If she is mad at you, you’ll work it out. Even if she never spoke to you again, you’d be okay. God has gotten you through much worse.
After truth journaling, I feel immense relief. The process of getting thoughts on paper is so powerful. Thoughts sequestered in our heads can wreak havoc. Once on paper, these thoughts reveal themselves to be lies and distortions. A phone call not returned does not prove anything — not even death, which is another thing I’ve feared.
How Truth Journaling Changed My Habits
I recently wrote about time management lies homeschool moms believe. One of them is that we’ll have time to do this later. Now that I’ve been truth journaling, I can recognize lies without writing them down. When I tell myself that I’ll have time to hang my clothes up tomorrow, I know this is a lie. I won’t have more time or energy tomorrow. The truth is that habits are created by what we do every day — not what we do when we feel like we have loads of time and energy. So I hang my clothes up right away.
I was at church this morning, trying to comfort a woman whose dear friend has only a few days left to live. Her beautiful inside-and-out friend who was beloved by so many of us went from feeling a little run down to having a terminal diagnosis in a matter of weeks.
We know where our friend and sister in Christ is going. We know that she will be in perfect health and peace when she gets there. But it’s hard to let go. We talked about our prayers for her husband and family in light of this loss. I promised to pray for the woman who is losing a close friend, too.
Then I saw something through the glass doors of our church that disturbed me. An elderly couple whom I have loved for more than fifteen years was outside.
The two of them have been leaders in our church for years. I remember him telling someone who was upset about a potential church move (which we did eventually make) that it was God’s church and not his. I remember their faithful presence in Bible class and their commitment to witnessing to our neighbors. I remember her oohing and aahing over my babies.
I remember so many church services that ended with them asking how I was and what was happening with our family. As my kids grew older, I remember my gratitude for their intentional conversations with my teens and their compliments of them, sometimes when I needed to hear them the most.
I remember the first stroke he had. I remember his acceptance as he described the results and his prediction that his symptoms would eventually get worse, not better. I wondered if I would have as much grace and a smile in his circumstances.
I remember the day she seemed confused and couldn’t find their car. I wondered how they would get along if she had dementia. I remember my relief when she remembered the lost car incident from the week before.
This morning when I saw this beloved couple outside before I had had the chance to say good-bye, I ran. They don’t move quickly any more, but I couldn’t take the chance of missing them. Anything could happen. And I wanted to make sure I saw them and hugged them and said good-bye. She thanked me for running out. It was as though she knew what I was thinking.
I was thinking that we never know when it’s the last time we’ll see someone this side of heaven.
It’s so easy to continue talking on the phone or staring at a screen or walking to our own car and miss the opportunity to say good-bye. I didn’t want to do that and live with regret.
I ran. And I’m going to keep running. I’m going to run to my husband’s car if I’m busy and cranky and didn’t say good-bye before he goes out of town. I’m going to run after my college kids as they get ready to go back to school. And I’m going to run after my friends if they slip away during a party at my home. Saying good-bye is too important not to.
That’s why I ran. I hope that from now on, you will too.