A man is having an enjoyable boat ride down the river. It is dusk. The man looks up to see another boat coming toward him. His first thought is how nice that someone else is out enjoying the river. Then he realizes the boat speeding, in fact it’s coming straight at him. Faster and faster the boat closes.
Anger begins to rise within him. “Watch out!” he yells. “You’re going to kill someone! Turn! Turn away!” But the boat bears down upon his fragile craft. Now he is standing in the boat, shaking his fist, screaming. Then the boat smashes right into him. The boat is empty.
If Lent is a season of deep reflection and change, this well-known parable puts its finger on the locus of change. It is within. We spend so much time and emotional effort trying to defend ourselves against attacks from “bad” people, blaming others for the feelings that arise within us, being angry. Since anger is the dominant emotion of our culture, we accept it almost as a given. We don’t see it in our own hearts. Anger demands an enemy, a villain, a hideous aggressor. It often hides out under cover of depression, and is usually so intermingled with our grief, we don’t even know it’s there. For men, mostly, anger is often just sadness that cannot be expressed.
If you have energy for only one Lenten commitment, do this: “Let go of anger and leave rage behind.” (Psalm 37:8)
Look into your heart and name your anger. Seek it hiding under all your more presentable emotions—resentment, bitterness, grudges, even “disappointments.” Stand in your fragile craft and see clearly that the other boat is empty. Then tap your breast: it’s all coming from in here.
Jesus said, “There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him” (Mark 7:15). As hard as it is to let go of our blame, the redemptive message of Jesus is that the only person who needs to change just happens to be the only one you have any power to change. Yourself.
Question for Today:
In a stressed-out world, how do I deal with my anger?
Who is the “empty boat” in your life?
Question #4 : “What does it mean to repent?” comes Thursday March 2.