Anger: Facing the Growing Mold

Our bathroom ceiling is in really bad shape. Sometime this summer, it started out with a few drips in one corner of the bathroom... almost imperceptible. Over time, we noticed that on another corner of the ceiling, the paint began to darken. Then, over the bathtub, it started to peel.

Now, let me back up a bit... lest you think us irresponsible or just flat out gross. We live in Central Asia. True enough, we live in a large city... but if one came to live in this city expecting it to measure up to western standards, it would be quite a disappointment. So we brought our expectations from China here... expecting inconveniences and differences in these most basic aspects of daily life. We called our landlord several times, and he eventually came, looked around, talked to our upstairs neighbors and pronounced the problem taken care of.

But what he didn't realize is that he had misdiagnosed the source. So the drips kept coming.

And over the past few months (in between landlord calls, visits, and a repeat of his same attempt at a solution again and again), the paint has started... well... molting might be the best word. Dripping. Flaking. Shedding. Little feathers of white paint littered our bathroom sink for weeks on end. I have vacuumed the ceiling several times. Guests notice. And while we still notice it, particularly when it flakes, it's just become part of the normal "landscape", if you know what I mean.

One night we had a neighbor family over, and we asked them about the problem... they said that ALL the buildings (and all the apartments) in our complex had the same problem and most had been dealt with 3-5 years ago. SO... the problem was INHERENT! It was part and parcel of living here. Only none of us realized it... not our landlord, certainly not us, and not our upstairs neighbor. We'd been trying to solve a problem without understanding it.

The landlord suggested that we just wait until the ceiling stops dripping and then he'll come and paint over the cracks, bumps, and whatever else is there.

Hmmm... that solution is not very consoling. The mold will still BE there, even if painted over.

But, that's not the point of my writing. I don't want suggestions on dealing with the mold problem. (Really, I don't.) Truth is, we hope to move within a few months anyhow. The point is that a couple weeks ago, as I looked up at the spots and cracks on the ceiling, I realized that this mold we're dealing with is like my own anger.

It has gotten worse and worse. It had gotten to the point of dripping into almost every day of our lives. At first, it was merely a slight, occasional, annoying but manageable drip. And, knowing that culture shock is stressful... and having babies... and medical emergencies... and moving around the world a couple of times... and learning languages... and raising four children... well, I have tried to have realistic, gracious expectations of myself in these present circumstances.

But when I tried to deal with the problem (anger), I misdiagnosed it. I attributed the source as external-- just like my landlord looking to the upstairs neighbor as the problem, and not realizing that the problem was in the make-up of the building. I've been looking at the outside problems as the problems... blaming others, the stress, or the conditions of life-- finding "reasons" to explain away the growing mold of anger.

But--aha!-- the problem is IN me. I'M the problem... this sinful flesh... my nature. Now we're getting somewhere.

I've been praying and working on it, and I've still got some work to do. This can't just be painted over. It'll require rooting out the problem and dealing with it at the true source.

Truth is, I don't know how to deal with mold... and I don't know how to really deal with anger. I don't mean just hiding it-- I mean slowly but surely getting rid of it. Rooting it out. And then working to actively fight against any future return. I've been taking it in prayer to the maker of this "building" and begging the Holy Spirit at work inside of me to fix this problem from the inside out.

I've printed out some verses and put them up around my house to focus on the 1 Corinthians 13 qualities of love, and even taped the nine "fruits" of the spirit up on the ceiling over my bed, so it's the first thing I see every morning to remind me to pray for these things to be evidenced in my life. And I think, slowly but surely, God is doing His work. The more time I spend in Scripture, and the more time I spend focusing on love, self-control, patience, and gentleness, the "drips" of anger are diminishing.

I know I have to keep fighting, but I am thankful for His work thus far fighting and treating this mold of anger in my life. And I guess I just wanted to share that with you. He is faithful, and He is fruitful in our lives when we take our problems to our Creator.


MiPa said...

Bless you for this. I've been thinking of anger as a trickle, the leaky faucet that drip, drip, drips until it overflows. And sometimes that is how it is. But your illustration of mold and finding the root cause of the anger---that is illuminating. Praying for you. Thanks for sharing your insight.

Emma said...

Wow, this is so me. The anger that has just seemed to grow and grow and become out of control. Thank you for your thoughts, and for sharing.

Terry @ Breathing Grace said...

What an insightful and transparent post, Jess. My flesh is reigning in areas it should not as well. I think your prescription (the Word) is truly the only one that works. Thanks for the spotlight I needed.

Anonymous said...

I do the "around the house" reminders as well. I have sticky notes with Bible verses on them to remind me....inside of cupboards, my bathroom medicine cabinet, by the light switch.

Anonymous said...

I know. I really do know.
I have a binder with a whole section devoted to dealing with anger. Every verse I read that deals with it in any way gets written down there. Sadly, I have a section on taming the tongue, the bitter wife, and a host of other great qualities I have.
But I'm learning. Slowly, God is changing me.

Anonymous said...

A good, good Christian woman and friend just introduced me to your blog yesterday. Since it was Thanksgiving, I see it as a direct sign of God helping to focus my own heart. It has been on my mind as I listen again and again to the amazing Casting Crowns song, Your Love is Extravagant, on your playlist.

So, when I logged on this morning to gain insight and focus, I am again amazed at how God works through others to speak to us.

Anger. It is a huge issue in my life. I feel it hinders me from really knowing Christ. It hinders me from embracing all that He has intended for me. It hinders me from the love that I am made to give, and to receive.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for opening up about your weaknesses with such candor and honesty. It inspires me to continue seeking His peace. And to continue to ask God everyday, to help me with this.


Mrs. Elliott said...

Jess-- thank you for this post. After moving overseas, I've also noticed it is easy to "paint over" the internal problems of sin issues as part of the circumstances I've been experiencing. But, you are SO right, it is an internal problem. Circumstances just allow the problem to show up sometimes in different ways and they become more apparent. I needed to read this today (and can empathize with the mold as we have been experiencing similar problems here in England), so thank you for sharing! I'm so glad our Savior is at work in us, to accomplish what we cannot!

Sanders said...

Wow - His timing is perfect! I really needed this tonight! Thanks Jess!

Anonymous said...

Noticing it is half the battle. Now, you can do something about it and it sounds like you are! Good for you!

Sending good thoughts your way,


Anonymous said...

Great segue! There really are spiritual metaphors all around us, eh? :) I'm wondering about the kind of things that anger you. With me lately it has been more of an irritability... getting frustrated with and yelling at the dog, running late and feeling angry at other drivers, being easily offended and then pouting... and so on! I've thought "Wow I was never like this before! Where is this coming from?" But the truth is, it's probably been there all along & the Holy Spirit is trying to root it out of my life! Thankfully we have eyes to see our sin! It's amazing the difference it makes to stay consistently in the Word (even if just a little per day), to stay eternally-focused.


MaryBeth said...

I love the way God uses the "things" around us (mold, inconveniences, bucket of unwashed dishcloths that now is creating a stench in the laundry room...) to speak to us. He is so faithful to parent us, shaping us into His image. Once again I am blessed by your transparency and your tenacious seeking to be more like Jesus.

Laura Lou said...

I too struggle with anger, and the very best thing I ever learned while receiving Biblical counseling from a dear spiritual sister is the root of anger is weedy pride. My gardening techniques: When angry, I ask myself: what right am I demanding? am I entitled to this "right?" And then, I pray to my Abba in Heaven, who straightens me out as regards my "rights" and helps me to see how I can receive the things I want without selfishly injuring others in the process.

Prideful and selfish--sinful--anger says, "I have a right to what I want, and I will have it no matter who I hurt." Having a right view of self before the infinitely glorious throne of God is its ultimate cure. Be encouraged. We have hope immeasurable.

Tiffanie said...

You have no idea how much this post has stung me today! I confess that I am sitting here, working through corrections with my children after a very long day and STEWING over the bad attitudes I see in my children. Sure, they have their own sin problem, but you have reminded me that my STEWING is a result of the sin inside of me. Thank you for the reminder to take this stew to the Lord in prayer.

Tami said...

I have struggled (am struggling) with anger in my own life. I wrote about some of the things that have helped me here:

With that said, your post has been a wonderful encouragement. Thanks.

Andrea said...

Dearest Jess,
Like you said, it is no wonder you are feeling this way. All of your circumstances would make anyone struggle.
As the normal human way of the world is to get a "quick fix", I applaud you for pushing through the pain.It is always in the pain where we heal the best and learn the most of our Saviour. No glossing or painting over it all, but working through it. Praying for you, Jess.

E03 said...

i think God has brought me to your blog at the right time in my life, where i am seeing terrible sins in my own soul...and sometimes i dont know if other Christians can relate to this terrible sense of what a sinner i am, because they see my externals and think i'm "doing well." Many Christians I know dont seem to talk about these sin struggles in our own lives a lot in practical ways. I feel like conversations stay a bit too shallow, or we're too quick to brush things off "Well, we all sin."
I have been wondering too, what do i do about this junk? Positionally, I know the Lord has taken care of it for me, but in my practice, how will i ever not think these terrible things, not talk back, not be angry....? I appreciate your idea of praying Scripture and putting it physically around you. May you see God's work in your life...He left us his Spirit... what would we do w/o Him?

Tanya said...

Great analogy, Jess.

Robert said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you. This is the post that I needed to read today. I have been struggling so much with anger the past few months and I too had been blaming it on external issues. But that is not the case. Thank you so much for the willingness to share your struggles to help others who may be.


Anonymous said...

Like the bumper sticker says, "If you're not angry, you're not paying attention!"

I think the Bible supports righteous anger about the injustice in the world.

But that is different from carrying around personal anger, which stems from perceived slights by friends or family or strangers.

When I have felt very angry because of something a particular person did to me, or (even worse) to someone I love, I have found it helpful to try to get into the mindset of the person who wronged me/us. What was that person thinking? Or if he or she wasn't thinking, why so thoughtless? Where was this hurtful behavior coming from?

It almost becomes a thought experiment, and it allows me enough distance to realize there's nothing gained by being angry at that person. It's easier to feel compassion for the person if you try hard to figure out what caused the hurtful behavior.

Also, it helps to realize that staying angry or holding a grudge gives someone else unnecessary power over your emotions. Why do that?

Finally, I find it helpful to remember that most things that made me really angry a long time ago just seem funny now. There are only a handful of things that have ever happened in my life that still have the power to make me angry--most involve something a person did to a loved one rather than to me.

Laurie B

Adrienne said...

Hey Jess,
I am an avid follower of your blog, but rarely comment. I love your solid views on our Lord and scripture and being a worker at home.

Oh how I can relate to your post on struggling with anger. I can also relate with having three kids and also living in a similar part of the world. It is easy to be tempted to blame my actions on the external circumstances. It is freeing to know that it is my own heart. God can change my heart even if my circumstances don't.

A good book that has been reccommended to me and I've started to read is "Uprooting Anger" by Robert D. Jones.

Berry Patch said...

Just wanted to let you know that I always enjoy reading your blog. You have a great way of taking the ordinary & pointing it towards God. I have struggled with anger my whole life. With God's help, it has gotten better but I'm not there yet. Step by step.

Jennifer said...

Like a previous comment, I too have been introduced to your blog lately. I have not commented until now. Your words are always thought provoking, challenging and encouraging. As a young christian mum of three little munchkins I find that your words have challenged me to really want to grow and mature as a woman, mother and christian.

I don't know if you see your blog as a type of "ministry" for want of a better word, but it really is. Thank you.


Abbi said...

Thank you for this post. It is neat because it goes right along with what I have been thinking lately. I also have trouble with anger, getting upset with the kids, raising my voice sometimes and just not always reacting in a kind and loving manner. We love each other deeply and mostly have a life of great fellowship but every so often, they do something and I over react.
I have been reading through 1 Corinthians lately and am on to the 13th chapter and I have been slowly going through it, verse by verse and trying to apply it to my life and asking God to do a work in me so that will be the sort of love that shows in me.

I have been thinking about putting reminders around the house as well.

Julie said...

Hey Jessica--

Thanks for this post. Anger has been a daily dragon for me too over the past several months. The adoption process--instead of being this sweet, warm experience--made me defensive and oh-so tired. And then Stephen came home and I was exhausted and overwhelmed with money concerns and our family was driving me crazy and there was so much laundry and so many nosy questions and so many rude and thoughtless comments and...well, I've just been getting angrier!

I have thought about putting up verses around the house to be a visual STOP sign when I begin to get angry--now I think I will definitely do that THIS WEEK! It is definitely a "growing mold" that can't just be painted over. I've tried to fake the sweet and happy mama, but the anger just pops out whenever and wherever it wants to--I've snapped at friends, folks at church, strangers in Wal-Mart... Eeeek!

When I consider the blessings in our family over the last year, I am humbled and my anger is revealed for what it is. Not any sort of just, righteous anger, but full-blown sin. Spitting in God's face. Forgetting the cross and the grace given to me there. Forgetting mercy that has continually been extended to me throughout my lifetime.

Thanks for being open with us. I am not glad that you struggle with this "dragon" too--but your post has been encouraging to me. I wanted you to know that.

Sorry to write a mini-book! :)


Jess said...

Isn't it wild how such joyful, good things can overwhelm us? I know what you mean. It doesn't work to put on a happy face in those moments-- that just makes us feel like we have to "keep up with the Joneses" AND forces everyone else to keep up with the picture of the "Joneses" that we've presented by faking it.

Thanks, as always, for your mini-book. You are SO not allowed to apologize for sharing your always thoughtful and wise words here-- write a book or a mini-book here anytime you please! :)


Shannon said...

I can't totally relate with you on this one in so many ways! Praying for you and ask you to pray for me!

(and I really enjoyed your comments on my blog about 1 Corinthians. I'd love to continue discussing this with you once things settle down a bit around here. I'm sure you understand how crazy things can be after the birth of a new baby :) )

Shannon said...

That was supposed to say that I CAN totally relate with you!

kamelda said...

Just to note that discouragement over our sins is such a difficult thing to deal with because it is a function of preaching the law to ourselves in these areas. I don't understand much about how to effectively combat my own sins but I know that is how God is combating them; and I learn to bask in His love that shapes my life and His kind control, and His perfect acceptance of me in Christ more and more as the real power to respond by keeping His law of love.