Around 1978, Foodland grocery stores ran a promotion centered around a 30-minute horse racing program called “Let’s Go To The Races”. With each grocery purchase you would receive a game card with a horse number for each of the five races that would be run during the Saturday night program. If your horse won its race, you were the lucky winner of between $2 and $500.
So each Saturday night, my brother and I gathered around the TV with our game card (or in the luckiest of weeks we’d have two cards). Our mom let us live with the impression that if we were lucky enough to win big, the money was ours to keep. For 9 and 10 year old boys in those days, $500 would buy pretty much an infinity of baseball cards and Kiss albums, so we were on the edge of our seats in the time slot preceding Hee Haw.
There were times where we were able to cash in on some $2 and $5 winners. But our luck just never worked out in the higher dollar races. Looking back, it was pretty amazing just how many times our horse jumped out to a 10-length lead in the $500 race. My brother and I jumped around the living room and yelled and cheered, thinking we were certain to be rich. But our horse always managed to lose in a photo finish when the stakes were highest. Dejectedly, we’d tear up our race card, throw couch cushions off the walls……….and think that surely we’d win next week.
In our young minds it never sunk in that the races were pre-recorded, and that the 2nd place photo finish loser was always going to be the number showing up on most everyone’s game ticket.
For the races that we witnessed, somebody already knew who was going to win. That someone wasn’t us. And maybe that’s why our anger, frustration, and disappointed were amplified in defeat. Uncertainty. Helplessness. They feed anger.
My oldest son is just a couple of months away from going away for college. I do remember being at that age and the anxious times of transition from high school to college and the new range of thoughts and worries that crash into your brain. He caught me off guard earlier in the week, asking the type of question that he usually wouldn’t ask. His nature is to listen, pay attention to what’s going on around him, and figure most things out on his own.
So I was caught a bit off guard when he blurted out, “Dad, how do you manage to not let things bother you and not get mad about the things that other people do?”
I wasn’t sure if he was specifically having trouble with anger and irritation or if he just got it in his head that I was an above average performer when it comes to anger management. Either way, I gave a lame answer.
How do I not get angry? My faith in God. My life experiences, being able to recognize that most things that people get so angry about aren’t worth getting angry about.
Don’t get me wrong. I get way madder than I should about printer problems, socialism, and stripped out screw heads. But there is a certain peace from knowing who wins in the end that takes away the fear, uncertainty, pride, and feelings of helplessness that feed the beast of anger.
My Jesus, who died on the cross for my sins and yours, he also rose again from the grave taking eternal victory over death. So when we get in the habit of taking pause to try to see things in an eternal perspective, in terms of Heaven and Hell and the promises of God……….most things we get bent out of shape over just aren’t worth getting bent out of shape over. “Did Jesus die on the cross for me to flip out over this? To talk to another human being like this? To withhold forgiveness like this? No.
I’m sure most of us over-inflate the number of cases where we think a case of “justified anger” is justified. And too many times we’re angry just because we decide we want to be angry (because I have a right to be angry, right?) usually for four reasons:
- Our pride is too great.
- Our love is too little.
- Our trust in God is lacking.
- Our vision is too short. We fail to find an eternal perspective.
It may sound a bit too simple. But anger grows from thoughts of justifying reasons to be angry. Anger dies, and peace comes when our thoughts turn to Jesus, a cross, and an empty tomb. We already know who wins. I know I’m not holding a losing ticket. Shame on me if I can’t find peace in that.