Dear Heavenly Father, last fall there was a relatively common occurrence on the island; something was left, forgotten on the stove, and a serious fire resulted. While no one was hurt, the house was virtually destroyed, all because a small pot was left unattended on the stove, its boiling contents, so small, able to destroy an entire house.
I think Lord, of the small boiling pots I leave unattended in my heart, pots that don’t contain soup or stew or yesterday’s left-overs, but simmering pots of anger. Not always large, these pots sit on my hearts stove, never cooling, always finding new sources of fuel to continue burning.
For instance, there are those things I do that make me angry, behavior I regret but don’t erase. So often I insist on the last word, how I hone my phrases like, “I told you that would happen!”, or “so there!” knowing they accomplish nothing, only turn up the heat a tiny bit. There is the burning pot of wanting more and more credit for all that I do, particularly from God. Sometimes I know I treat God like a third grade teacher who dispenses smiley faces for good deeds, and I insist on my share. Turn up the heat a bit more. My feelings get hurt, what my mother called, “Wearing my heart on my sleeve,” so that I see harm in the most innocent comment, and the heat goes up still more. I forget that it’s not all about me. Another untended pot is that I’m impatient; I can barely wait to let someone else complete a sentence, so I hurry and finish it for them. I hate when I do that; it makes me angry, but I haven’t yet found the way to stop doing it. I get angry and angrier.
Then there are things I don’t do that make me angry. When someone could use a kind note, a positive email, the delivery of food; I’m always the first to volunteer in my heart. In my heart, yes, but not necessarily in fact. I get angry at myself for not following through, but I haven’t mastered my failure. I’m angry that my daily prayers have grown stale and repetitive. I want them to reflect the true feelings in my heart, but I find myself instead mouthing words while I brush my teeth. A small pot of anger. And what makes me most angry is that I don’t listen to You, God. I spend my time as if You were my office assistant; I give you a to-do list, dates when I want them accomplished, and suggestions for how to do them. I know in my heart that You are God of the universe, and yet I treat You with such casual regard, failing to listen to You, failing to give ear to what You have to tell me about my life. I’m angry at myself, but I don’t change my behavior. The heat goes up another notch.
And finally, Dear God, I’m angry over things I can’t even control. I’m angry over this country—it’s division, its name-calling, its refusal to emphasize what Christ taught—to love, to forgive, to care for the needy and the aged. I dread the papers, I watch TV and I grow angry. I’m angry over climate change. I worry about the planet I’ll leave my granddaughter. Our son is a geologist; he can see the impact we’re having on this world You gave us, and our disregard both troubles and angers me. And finally, Dear Lord, I’m angry over ageing. I hate that my mind grows increasingly muddied, that what was once crystal clear is now confusing, that I can no longer think or speak as I once did. I see my body changing day by day, no longer responsive to my wishes, and it makes me angry. The world is changing so rapidly that I’m dazed; I feel left behind and frustrated. I feel angry.
Forgive me, please Lord, not to do those things I ought not. Let my anger be consumed by activity. Forgive my anger at my failure to do things I ought to do. Please give me the motivation, the encouragement, to do them so that I am no longer angry at myself. And Dear Father, help me to find ways to channel my anger over those things I can’t change. Help me to find small ways that I can be an agent of peace in this troubled world. Help me to find ways, perhaps small ways, that I can reduce climate change by my behavior, reducing my anger. And help me to find patience in the process of growing old. Patience with myself and my body’s changes. Instead of anger, help me to find wisdom in ageing, ways in which I can share my life’s lessons with others.
Dear Father, I know that my anger, reflected in these simmering pots, is dangerous and unproductive. If left unattended, even the smallest pot of anger can destroy the joy in my life, make me despondent and unhappy. Just as these unattended pans of soup or stew caused fires that destroyed houses, so too I can ruin my happiness by letting anger overcome my life. Help me to examine each of these small fires, and help me find ways to remove them from excessive heat by positive choices. Give me, I pray, a life lived so close to You that there is no room for anger or simmering resentment; may my life be filled only with the joy of Your presence and the love You give me to share with others.