What Getting Stuck In The Mud Taught Me About Anger

On Monday, I performed double black flips all morning long with the intention of making sure my kids were engaged in summertime fun.  I packed a wholesome lunch, made sure each kid had on appropriate swim wear, filled the pool bag with goggles, sunscreen and towels, and lathered sun screen on 5 skinny bodies so they could splish and splash in the pool's cool, blue water.

After we had been at the pool for about 3 hours, however, a few grey clouds rolled in and within moments, it started pouring rain.  I quickly collected our things and my kids and herded them to the van.  All of them were sopping wet and wrapped in towels, so I suggested they just sit on the terry cloth until we got home and they could change into warm clothes.

But one of my kids wanted to do things her way.

Instead of buckling her seat belt and obeying,  she snuck into the back of the van, pulled out her clothes, and got dressed.  I wasn't far from home when I looked in the rear view mirror and saw that this child had McGyvered her way into the trunk and into dry clothes.

And like the "good" mother I am,  I completely flipped.

Lost it.

Went berserk.

Perhaps this has happened to you?

You have a child who disobeys and you feel an surge of righteous anger-- which is not wrong--but instead of controlling yourself and your tongue, you let the anger take over and you yell

and yell

and yell.

And all of a sudden, the child's small act of disobedience turns into a case of treason in the high courts.

That's what happened to me on Monday.

I was so mad--and though I was right to be angry--I didn't have control over my tongue and the more I talked about her "crime", the more venom I spewed.

At the apex of my diatribe, I turned down a narrow side road to try to calm down because

1.  I knew I was too angry and

2.  I was already ashamed at my behavior.

I took a few deep breaths and whispered a one line silent mental prayer that said,

"Lord, save me from myself." 

And as soon as I uttered this prayer, this is what happened:

I (unknowingly) drove my 15 passenger van off the road and got stuck.  The harder I pressed the gas pedal, the deeper my wheels spun in the mud and there was no way my van was going to ever move without assistance.

And that van stuck in the mud is a perfect metaphor for what my unrestrained anger looks like.

The more I nurse anger, the deeper I spin and the more stuck I become and there's no way to get out unless someone pulls me out.

Whether big or small, anger keeps a person stuck.  It's unproductive.

I wasn't waylaid long before something--or rather--someone stopped to help me.  This kind stranger hitched a chain from the front of my van to his ginormous tractor and within a few minutes, he yanked us out.

My hero.

My hero.

There was no damage to the van and once we were free, I was able to put my child's small act of disobedience into perspective.  I apologized for loosing my temper and she did too and I gave her a few odd jobs as a consequence.

But for the rest of the day, I contemplated the way my anger did nothing to improve the situation but only worsened it.  It didn't teach my disobedient child but it did wreak all sorts of havoc--it hurt me and my kids and it could have really hurt my van.


I don't want to spend the rest of my life getting stuck and spinning my wheels but more importantly, I know I'm going to always need Someone to save me from myself and to pull me out of the mud.

Because I'm a pig who loves slop and I need a Loving Master to keep me from sinking into my own quagmire.

Lord, save me from myself.

β€œOne man may be so placed that his anger sheds the blood of thousands, and another so placed that however angry he gets he will only be laughed at. But the little mark on the soul may be much the same in both. Each has done something to himself which, unless he repents, will make it harder for him to keep out of the rage next time he is tempted, and will make the rage worse when he does fall into it. Each of them, if he seriously turns to God, can have that twist in the central man straightened out again: each is, in the long run, doomed if he will not. The bigness or smallness of the thing, seen from the outside, is not what really matters.”
CS Lewis Mere Christianity