Loving God, you are with us in the good times and the bad; when life doesn’t go as planned, when we are disappointed with others, with the world, or with ourselves, listen to our prayer, send your Holy Spirit to comfort us, and wrap us in your everlasting arms. Amen.
Bible Verse for the Day
“In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” Ephesians 4:26-31 (NIV)
Today’s bike ride didn’t start off all that great. To be honest, we almost gave up. There were tears shed and we actually stopped and turned around at least half a dozen times before we finally got ourselves together and rode on. And it ended up being one our best, most enjoyable bike rides of all.
It all started with a conversation with my six-year old about money laundering. Yes, you read that correctly. We had a bad start to our bike ride because of a conversation about money laundering.
I’ve tried to make isolation as positive and fun as I possibly can. During the past month, we’ve pretty much thrown all the rules out the window for the kids. I mean, they can’t purposefully hurt people or themselves, they can’t talk back or be disrespectful (which they usually aren’t), and they can’t say mean or hurtful words, but otherwise, we say yes a lot right now. That may not be the healthiest thing to do in the long run, but our kids have been through a lot and if I can replace their stolen freedom with unlimited video games, tablet time, and a few toys, I’m going to do it. I mean, we are stuck inside our house. When it’s over, we will have been stuck in here for 40 days. Nobody signed up for this.
So Flynn plays a lot of video games right now. He laughs and has a lot of fun, which is music to my ears, so I allow it. He gets to interact with friends online. When he’s not playing video games, he’s laughing hysterically at his favorite YouTube stars on the tablet. It makes him incredibly happy, so I’ve temporarily suspended all limits on screen time. If he can leave a six week isolation with his happiness and joy intact, I will it call it a success from a mental health standpoint, and I’ll tackle my parenting mistakes later. (Again, I’m not an expert on this topic, but we’re making lemonade out of lemon. I’ll clean up the kitchen later.)
The downside to the video games is that he talks about them nonstop. I have noticed a recent upward trend in the constant immersion, so I’ve been thinking of ways to keep him grounded in reality. I’ll split up his time by reading to him, or I make him take a break and build Legos with me for a while before he can watch more tablet or turn the game on again. Sometimes, I give him a few small toys and tell him we’re going outside for an hour with those things, and those things only, and we’ll have to use our imagination and find things in nature to make an adventure in the front yard. So it’s not ALL video games and tablet time, but screen time has increased during isolation and it was my breaking point this morning.
We were riding by his elementary school where he just finished the first grade, and he said, “Yeah, and we’ll cook the books like a pro. Isn’t that funny, Mommy?”
“What did you just say?” I asked.
“I said we’ll cook the books like a pro,” he replied matter-of-factly.
I mean, he could have said something WAY worse than that. (I’m sure I did at his age.) He could have cursed. He could have talked about violence. He could have been mean or disrespectful. But instead he was excited about an online job simulator game in which he thought he’d literally be frying and baking books. He thought it was hilarious. (Meanwhile, I’m going to ensure he never downloads this game if it’s simulating money laundering as an actual job.)
But I didn’t think it was hilarious. I began to feel my anger boiling up inside me. I wasn’t angry at Flynn. None of this was his fault. I was angry that some stupid video game stole my child’s innocence and here I was having to explain what cooking the books really meant right in front of the elementary school where sometimes he’s still too shy to be first in the lunch line. (Again, it could have been worse and I’m glad I wasn’t explaining other things.)
We rode and we talked. I’m very thankful my child talks openly with me. By this time we’d made it to the deserted water park near our house, closed due to COVID. I don’t know what came over me. I saw that park, where my kids and their friends normally spend their summers laughing and having fun, now closed and empty, and I could feel the anger exploding like lava inside me. At this point, Flynn was crying because I told him I was going to take the video games away. We’d also turned around to go home, made it to a side parking lot, and ridden back to the deserted water park entrance at least three times. We sat on the curb and talked. I explained that I wasn’t angry at him, but I was angry at the virus. He said he was angry at the virus too. This was the first time we’d talked about anger since we’ve been upstairs. We had a good cry and we decided that we needed a good bike ride on the trails so we rode on.
Astin, like Flynn, has generally been very happy and resilient through all of this, but I know she is angry too. Last night she was so angry because she wanted someone to hold her, and we can’t. My infectious disease doctor told me that Flynn and I cannot have direct contact with the downstairs until July 4th, so I couldn’t hold her, and Blake has shingles so he couldn’t hold her either. (Seriously, I haven’t hugged my daughter in a MONTH.)
I was standing on the landing and Astin was standing right below me near the front door. She was screaming and pinching her legs, just so she could feel something, all while yelling, “Hug me!!!!!”
Ya’ll, that was it for this mama. That was every single bit I could handle. I threw on my N-95 faster than you can blink an eye, and flew OVER the bannister, and picked up my girl and hugged her. She held on so tight, that her tiny fingernails left marks in my shoulders, and her hair smelled like heaven, even though I’m not sure when it’s last been washed. I even confessed my hug to my primary healthcare provider this morning. And I recalled very clearly that my infectious disease doctor said that Flynn and I were likely not contagious. Girlfriend needed a hug, and I was done. (But, alas, Blake sent me packing right back up the stairs and we are still isolated.)
I’m angry! I’m so angry! I’m so angry at this virus!
Each night when I look at the sunset and feel the warm summer breeze, I think about my summers in high school or home from college, riding around at dusk with the windows down and the music blaring after a hard day at whatever crappy part time student job I had or even just after a day the pool. Or hanging out at our friends’ houses, rolling my eyes at my now-husband because he told another terrible joke. Then I think of all these high school and college students, especially the graduates, going through this, this awful mess. This is NOT what summer is supposed to be like. I’m so angry at this virus!
I look at my neighborhood social media watch page and there are grown men claiming to be more Christian than the other, while they simultaneously sling shameful insults at each other over COVID data and wearing masks. I’m so angry at this virus.
I’ve spent hours on the phone with friends who have been laid off or who are talking about closing their small business because nothing is normal right now, especially not the economy. I’m so angry at this virus!
I look at my son, who doesn’t deserve isolation for 40 days. He’s a good kid. He didn’t do anything wrong. I’m so angry at this virus!
In an earlier post, I told you about the personal development workshop I attended in South Florida with a woman named Rhonda* who taught us about basic emotions and how to feel and recognize them. She was the first person who taught me to feel anger, to truly feel it, and how to deal with it. She asked her students to scream, “Angry! I’m so angry! Angry! I’m so angry!” until they actually felt real, raw anger. Some students felt rage, and she would hand them a foam baseball bat and let them go to town on a folding chair. Then she would ask them what they were thinking about when they were screaming or beating the chair with the bat. It was always a very specific memory. From there, she taught her students to deal and cope with that memory and their anger.
Right now, I’m angry! I’m so angry! I’m so angry at this virus!
Feeling angry is normal. It’s one of the five stages of grief. And when you or a loved one receives a COVID diagnosis, there will be grief involved, which means anger will show its fiery red face soon. And that’s okay. It’s how you deal with it and move through it that matters.
What does the Bible say about anger?
It’s not wrong to be angry. There are many examples of people, God, and even Jesus becoming angry, when he overturned tables in the temple (although some scholars argue this is not the right emotion to associate with these scriptures). But the Bible is also very clear that uncontrolled anger and harboring anger are both sins. That’s when it becomes wrong.
I’m angry at this virus and I know you are too. I’ve had enough of this virus and all the terrible awfulness it’s caused in this world. I’m angry that it’s making innocent people sick. I’m angry that some people never recover. I’m angry that it affects kids. I’m angry that our economy is failing. I’m angry that people can’t see beyond themselves and just love one another and be kind. I’m angry that I haven’t hugged my daughter in a month! I’m angry that my son has to go through this!
I’m angry! I’m so angry! I’m so angry at this virus!
But I cannot stay that way. I will not stay that way. I will show my child, because he’s stuck with me upstairs and watches every move I make, listens to every word I say, and reads every sentence I write (over my shoulder, sneak attack style), that good can still come of this, that we WILL find it. But we can’t find it angry. We have to acknowledge that anger, feel it, deal with it, and move forward, if we want to find the good in this.
Today’s bike ride didn’t start off all that great. To be honest, we almost gave up. But we didn’t. We pushed through the hard stuff and we finished, and it ended up being the best ride we’ve had so far.
*Name changed to protect identity.
Tips from a weary mama:
Girlfriend needed a hug and you need to work through your anger. You may need to borrow a foam bat and beat a lawn chair with it, but you may only use a FOAM bat and it has to be an inanimate object. When we were first diagnosed, I stomped through the house. I was piping hot mad and couldn’t think of anything else to do than pitch a stomp fit like I was the four-year old in the house. You have to find a way to SAFELY get your anger out. Write, run, walk, stomp, scream outside, but do it safely and do not harm others while you work through it.
Have you experienced anger during this time? What are you most angry about? What can you do about it? How can you work through it?
Almighty and loving God, you made us in your image, and even you get angry sometimes; when we find ourselves mad or angry, help us to stay under control, not to lose our temper, and guide us to behave in ways that lead to peace. Amen.
Since tonight’s devotional dealt with emotions that I had to discuss with my children, both prayers are from the book, “Common Prayer for Children and Families,” by Jenifer Gamber and Timothy J.S. Seamans. It was given to me by my church, St. John’s Episcopal Church. We are so grateful for them. Know that they are praying for you. We are all praying for you.