“It’s not that serious.” she said.
“No, it’s not that serious TO YOU.” I replied. The irritation had been building and I found myself lashing out at my wife. Why? I don’t even remember. I just remember those words, how they rolled into a rant, ended in comparison and accusation, causing us to both shut down. I hate that I occasionally have this internal drive to be “right”. It clouds my judgment. It skews what is important. It magnifies the minor.
I needed perspective on the matter, God gave me James 1:19. I focused heavily on it this week.
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,”
I don't consider myself an angry man, but I can certainly be impatient. Maybe it’s my generation. Maybe it’s just how God made me. Either way, I can get impossibly distracted by what should be, present an irrational timeline on how long it should take to get there, and then stew in frustration when I don't meet my own fabricated deadlines, so God gave me James 1:19.
I’ve read it before and I’ve heard preached on before, but I always thought I was good on this front. After all, I typically don’t lash out or demean others. I err on the side of grace and I believe the best in people (to a fault). I guess that’s the problem. I have always applied James 1:19 to other people, not to myself, and certainly not to God.
Perhaps if we were quicker to listen to Him the other two nuggets of wisdom would fall into place. Perhaps we would be slower to speak instead of acting out a childish game of “I’m not, you are!”. Maybe we would place our anger where it is more deserved, like the Enemy who is constantly strives to interrupt our intimacy. Maybe then we would cease to assassinate the character of people who are simply on a different struggle bus than us.
James continues to inform us about human anger, highlighting a painful reality. It does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
The more I dwell on James 1:19, the more I’m convinced, it is applicable to people but it was designed to frame our conversations with Father God. You may disagree and that’s your right, but hear me out.
James is a letter addressed to the diaspora. Those who had been displaced from their homeland into surrounding countries. Those receiving this letter were likely disheartened, spiritually exhausted nomads, looking to make sense of a bad situation. James tells them to not just survive, but to find joy in it. Why would he say that?
He likely heard the grumbling and complaining, the doubt, fear, uncertainty concerning God’s plan. Chances are they were slow to listen for what Holy Spirit was leading them to do, quick to speak to God about the sorrow of their condition and how He was slacking on His job, and quick to become angry, scaling up division from their personal strife in the quiet place to corporate disruption in the collective body of Christ.
James was so brutally confrontational and pointed in his remarks. Perhaps that’s why he only needed 5 chapters. No need for fluff, deal with it. However, his black and white approach is exactly what I needed.
I’ve tried hard to apply James 1:19 to my prayer and thought life this week and something happened. I heard Him clearer, I complained less, and I was more at peace with everything around me.
My wife and I were sitting on the couch last night and I brought up a sign I want made to hang over my office door. I want it to say. “Not Yet.” Before I begin my striving, my maladjusted attempt to prove worth through productivity, or my internal demand to meet contrived deadlines, I need to stop. I feel like God has been telling me to pause, don’t work, not yet. Not until I hear Holy Spirit provide instruction and guidance. Not yet, not until I am certain my plans for the day align with Him. Don’t start, not yet.
I need to be quick to be quick to listen to Holy Spirit.
I need to be slow to speak, gaining context for my emotion and spiritual state before vocalizing my displeasure in God’s response rate or questioning His sovereignty.
I need to be slow to push the nuclear anger button, especially if the anger is inward and upward instead of outward.
I want my life to produce the “righteousness God desires” and if that means living out James 1:19, then let’s roll. After all, I can never remember the opposite getting me very far, and if the opposite offends my Savior, all the more reason to shut up, listen up, and calm down.
In light of eternity, it‘s probably not that serious anyway.