In this series, Back to Basics, it’s my hope to shed some insight about the freedom I found in Christ through some personal stories from my early years of wrestling with fear of Old Testament law.
When I was eight years old, I moved in with my grandparents in North Denver for a few years. They belonged to a cult that only believed in reading the Old Testament and it was my only view to the bible at the time. I knew the 10 Commandments said not to murder, but I didn’t find too much in the Old Testament about avoiding anger.
There were a lot of fights in our neighborhood. It seemed “an eye for an eye” was an agreed upon policy. I remember a few times where adults decided to duke it out in front of kids. Soon, I started getting in some fights. One incident at school resulted in me having to write 100 times “I will learn to control my anger” on loose-leaf paper in the principal’s office.
But, I didn’t learn.
I fought on the school bus. I fought while playing sports. I even fought in the very center of the street one time wearing my new Kangaroo sneakers and being encouraged to “kangaroo-kick” my opponent by crowd of neighborhood kids. Anger just seemed to have a place and our neighborhood offered a ready outlet.
That’s until I saw a fit of anger that would change the trajectory of my life. My grandfather asked me to bring in groceries from the car and for some reason I thought I could handle a large watermelon all by myself. It slipped out of my hands and hit the sidewalk.
From the look my grandfather gave me, I knew I was in trouble. He really loved watermelon and he also had a problem with alcohol. Though he had never hit me, I knew his temper had landed some blows on other family members. He started toward me and I took off running for several blocks until I reached a friend’s house. I called home to ask my grandmother if it was safe to come back. She assured me my grandfather had sobered up and wouldn’t murder me for not being able to carry large fruit.
After that incident, I reunited with my mother sooner than expected and landed in a Texas suburb where fighting and arguing in public didn’t seem so commonplace.
But that image of anger in that incident stayed with me. It was the first time I felt I was really in danger because of someone’s anger toward me and it gave me a glimpse of avoiding wrath by running to escape it.
Years later, when I met Jesus, I learned how he made it possible for us to avoid God’s wrath by not running from Him but to Him instead.