Thursday, June 25, 2009

Slaying the Dragons - the Red Dragon

God created us to be emotional people. We feel love, hate, joy, despair, happiness, sadness, anger, fear, frustration, peacefulness. All are a part of being human. But God tells us to live by faith, not by feelings. We are to be the master, not the slave when it comes to our emotions. I remember hearing a sermon back when I was in the depths of depression, saying that depression was a sin. I was furious. How on earth could I change how I *felt*? But God's truth tells us the opposite. We Can change our feelings and should. We Can take those thoughts captive and must! If we do not, they grow and we truly become the slave, and it becomes harder and harder to ever get free. In my life Disappointment became Self Pity, which in turn became Despair, and eventually became Depression. I was *little* when it started. One could say I didn't know any better - and perhaps I didn't. It would be easy to look at those thoughts and feelings along the way as completely normal, and the Depression as something sudden that overtook me from outside myself. But the seeds were planted long before and allowed to grow - and even watered along the way. Like a dragon, the little egg becomes a little lizard wrapping its tail more and more tightly around your neck, and eventually it grows until it is a huge fire breathing dragon ready to consume you! Any emotion can gain control if allowed to fester and grow. Disappointment becomes Depression. Concern becomes Fear and Anxiety. Nervousness becomes Paranoia. Hurt becomes Bitterness. Self thought becomes Self consumption. Irritation becomes Anger and Rage. Our world is filled more and more and more with people under the control of their emotions. We call it mental illness and claim victim status, forgetting that we picked up the egg and kept it warm and fed the little dragon hatchling all along the way.

It is of course easiest to slay the dragon while it is small, even in it's shell yet. But often, we don't recognize it in time. We live in a world that sees these things as so normal that we don't notice what is going on. So what happens when the dragon is full grown and seemingly in control? Is it too late? Are we doomed to a life of slavery and medications? I don't believe so. It may take more time and will certainly be more difficult, but God is still able! He sent David out against Goliath with a sling and a stone and a strong faith. These are the same tools that will slay dragons even today - the sling and stone of prayer and praise - and faith in a God who loves us and is in control of our lives.

So, the first dragon that we find is the red dragon - the dragon of anger and rage. As Moms we may find this dragon to be suddenly more present in our lives than ever before. So very often we want desperately to not have our children remember us as angry moms - yet we feel powerless to change. We find ourselves in that "definition of insanity" - continuing to do the same things over and over, thinking we'll get different results. For me, this really did seem like one of those things that suddenly took me over from somewhere outside myself. But I had to admit the egg was laid long ago in selfish thoughts and expectations that grew into idols in my life.

I grew up in a home where anger was not the norm. Mom would become irritated on occassion but it took a lot to get her angry enough to yell. I don't think I ever saw my dad angry, although sometimes the set of his jaw as he chewed on his pipe was a clue to his inner struggle with his anger (which I've found out recently was more than I ever knew). Anger between us kids was quickly nipped in the bud whenever it occurred - not in a bad way - it was just something that wasn't acceptable and I came to see it as not normal. I remember staying over at a friend's house when I was in the eighth grade. Her brother started arguing with his mother at the supper table and sounded quite angry to my ears. It disturbed me so much that I started to cry. They quickly assured me that they were not at all angry with eachother, but rather playing, teasing. How bizarre it was to me! :)

Then I had children, and experienced anger LOL. Their fighting, bickering, misbehaving, having to be told again and again and *again* to do something - pushed me over the edge in a way I'd never felt before. It scared me. I found myself swearing in my head - and I am*not* a swearing person - but all those words from the Stephen King novels I'd stupidly read in my teen years came flooding into my brain in my anger. It was awful! I remember one morning, coming to the end of my rope and *begging* God to help me, show me what to do with that anger. Immediately, the phone rang, and it was my dearest friend and mentor. :) Isn't God amazing? During that phone call, and over the years to follow, God taught me three things that have made such a difference. Trust me, I still blow up at times, but I don't get to the swearing in my head point, praise the Lord!

First, my friend prayed for me and then she got me a set of tapes from Charity Ministries called The Godly Home. Those tapes, as well as some other great books, most recently one called Raising Godly Tomatoes , helped me to learn to be more consistent in my parenting. I'd gotten into the habit of trying to ignore bad behavior until the irritation built up and up and up and I finally exploded. To say something once and matter-of-fact-ly administer discipline for disobedience, helped immensely. Even after learning this lesson, I've found it's easy to backslide into laziness and complacency again. It's so worth the effort to keep on top of things.

Second, God taught me more about loving others with His love rather than my own. He had taught me some of this in my marriage a few years before that point, but for me, the children - whom I felt I *should* have some measure of control over - were much harder than my husband -as another adult. As mothers, we have a lot of natural love for our children, which is a good thing, but there are times when we can find our children quite unlikeable - terrible as that sounds - and *is*.

God taught me that there IS no true love in me for my children. That natural love is so filled with selfish thoughts and motivations that it's no wonder we seem to lose that love when things get tough. It's no wonder we can look at our children's behavior and think they're just doing it to spite me or to make me look bad! So much of my selfworth was bound up in the behavior of my children! When they misbehaved that voice in my head told me again how worthless, useless, stupid, and incapable I was. It was all bound up in the depression and self-loathing I had struggled with most of my life.

But God was at the same time teaching me how *much* He loves ME - Yes, even me! When I truly experienced His incredible love for me - just as I was -I was finally able to put off little by little that self hatred that had consumed me. I finally was able to see myself through His eyes -dear and precious and beautiful. Then I could learn to say, "Lord, I*can't* love this person. It is impossible. But YOU can love them through me."

There were times I'd pray that prayer and take a deep breath and almost step outside myself watching myself going on to do the right thing - a bizarre feeling, really, but so incredibly powerful.

Because God had taught me how *MUCH* He loved me, showed me His delight in me personally -
Because He had drawn my heart to fall head over heels in *LOVE* with Him -
Because He had filled my heart so full to overflowing with that love relationship with Him -

When I admitted my complete inability to love my children the way I should and got my "self" out of the way - His love overflowed through me into the lives of my children around me. Again, this was not a one time thing. Oh no! Moment by moment, I had (and often still have) to make that choice. But when I do, all anger melts away and it's a beautiful thing to watch God work.

Third, He taught me that He is the true bringer of all things in my life, good, bad, irritating, whatever. If I look at my child's disobedience and get angry at my child for what my child did, I am looking at the "secondary causes" whereas the "primary cause" is God Himself. (The book, The Christian's Secret to a Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith explains this concept more.) He has allowed this situation in my life for *good* to grow me, change me, draw me closer and closer to Him.

I've learned that I need to praise Him, not just *in* the hard times, but *for* them. This is always easier when the hard times are things that happen rather than what people do - especially little people that I am supposed to be teaching and training - but it is no less God's hand in my life. And I need to simply say,"Thankyou, Lord!" and give that little dragon egg of hurt that would turn into anger up as an offering to Him. This then, frees me to deal with my child's sin firmly yet calmly and lovingly.

The bigger the dragon has grown, the more times we will need to go through the above steps before it is slain. The prayer of a life that says, I can't Lord, but You can! The praise of a life that says, Thankyou Lord, for allowing this frustration in my life to draw me and my child closer to You. And the faith to believe that God can and is changing us from the inside out as we immerse ourselves in Him more and more. It is a fight that must never be given up. As Matt Kaufmann writes in his article "When Anger Rules" in Focus on the Family's webzine Boundless,
"Anger has to be experienced briefly, then dispelled or channeled into positive directions. Those who let it take up long-term residence in their souls are liable to find themselves under the devil's mastery. And if that happens, then the original cause won't even matter any more."


  1. Thank you Heidi-this post has really ministered to me. I would like to have your permission to print it up for my own personal use. I'd like to put it in a binder and be able to re-read it.
    I'll also look into the links you've provided.
    Many blessings to you....

  2. Heidi,

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this post!!! I really needed to hear this and to repent of some issues I have let creep into my own life. My husband is struggling with his faith (has been for 8 years) and I noticed I have started feeling sorry for myself. Sorry that I have to "drag" the kiddos to church alone, without my dh, and feeling sorry for myself because I don't have a strong spiritual leader in the house. I haven't been to church for 4 weeks because of feeling sorry for myself. I'm off to repent for my self-pity and to remind myself that God has allowed this to come into my life for a reason and that I need to stay focused on the Lord and not myself, lest I fall into this sin again.

    I so appreciate your transparency and honesty in all of your writings.

    ~Karen in Ohio

  3. Oh Heidi, what a beautiful post and so true. God is/has been in the process of dealing with me on these very things. I LOVE Hannah Whitall Smith. I am just now reading The God of All Comfort and it is one of my favorite books.

    Thank you dear sister.