Our pastor has been covering an interesting topic in church this month; the theme for February has been 'the Battle Within.' Today was especially interesting, for my good pastor covered a topic very close to my heart. It's something I've struggled off and on with my entire life...
Of course he hit bonus points with me as he alluded to something I can relate to in a couple of ways; the fact that people have compared me to Lou Ferrigno (I sat on the front row, and I guess he couldn't help but see me)... and the fact that the David Banner version of the Incredible Hulk from the 1970s and 80s was such an intriguing perspective of the human struggle with anger. He began by saying something to the effect that maybe if our favorite super hero was the Hulk, maybe we should re-think our choice. That is where I began to take a more inward look.
You see, I have always liked the Hulk's story, especially the television series story, the best... because I could relate to it. Anger is something we all encounter. Anger is something we all experience. But I've had a few experiences with anger that perhaps stood out more to me in my life, than it might stand out in others. The Ferrigno Hulk was a symptom of a man's regret - a selfish regret where a man, without God, wants to rectify his own failing in weakness at his most desperate of time. His wife died in a car crash, that had David Banner been able to lift the car up to gain access to his wife to get her out of danger, she would still be alive. David Banner then takes it upon himself to research chemical changes in the human body, during desperate times, to unleash superhuman strength. And everyone knows the end results as his science experiments with gamma radiation go horribly wrong. The curse of the character from then on out is that whenever he becomes angry, the ugly green monster emerges from within, causing utter destruction and leaving chaos in his wake.
And like I said - I can relate. I can think of times when I was a young kid, losing my temper with my early friends, and walking home from birthday parties because I got so angry I could cry. I remember in my teens, getting angry because I was picked on by people in one environment (middle school and high school), and taking it out on another poor soul who suffered from similar things in another setting (church youth group and Boy Scouts). It wasn't something I set out to do, but I let anger get the best of me in those days, and learned quickly, that although people tend to keep their distance when they see how fiery your rage can be, it certainly wasn't a way to win friends and influence others.
At an early age, I wrestled with my own internal hulk monster. I remember, I guess with hormonal changes going on at the same time, wishing God would just make me stronger so I could teach the big bullies at the high school a lesson. I remember wishing for revenge whenever I felt slighted by someone whom I just knew did something to spite me on purpose, just because they knew they could. I remember getting so angry with my middle brother, for no other reason than I just couldn't understand why he wouldn't just do what his big brother told him. I remember flipping out and jumping to conclusions when other people picked on my little brothers. I remember one day coming to a breaking point emotionally, as a high school student, at a camp where I spent time learning how to do things for another camper who couldn't fend for himself. I remember coming to grips with my anger problem. I remember a moment where I found myself alone in a chapel. It reminded me of the scene in the terrible first cinematic version of the Hulk, when Eric Bana's character confronts his own superhuman father, and unleashes an immeasurable amount of energy in the form of the Hulk's inner rage, and 'Bruce' Banner tells his father to 'Take it...take it ALL!' and the raging energy surges forth from the Hulk and destroys Bruce Banner's own father.
There I was, at the foot of a tall, glowing cross, alight with florescent light at the altar. And I told God to take the anger away...take it all! I remember kneeling there at the cross, sobbing in my own river of tears, begging God to take away the temper from within. I had lost friends. I had hurt friends. I had hurt family. One of the amazing parts to this story that most people don't know - is I started to change then. I was less easily angered from that point forward.
Now don't get me wrong. This is something I will always have to keep in check. But my pastor said it best today; that anger is something that is on us; it's ours to choose to control - or not. And it is not always easy to control, no matter who you are. Ironically enough, I have discovered by working in law enforcement, that everyone has their breaking points. Mothers can lose their cool with doctors. Grandmothers can lose their ever-loving minds when their anxiety reaches its peak. But we are still the ones that decide, in the long run, to lash out in anger or not.
Working in defensive tactics and learning martial arts, I have also discovered that the calmer any of us remains, the better we can perform at almost anything. This myth that rage can overcome danger and violence - it will get you killed. It is calmness from within that can help you think clearly and make the best decisions.
But how does one find that calmness? I maybe can't answer that for you in particular, but I know that without God, I would still be that immature raging monster I used to be, with a lot more muscle, girth, and dangerous knowledge than I used to have. I can tell you that by spending time in God's word, I have found a peace that has helped me cope with other stressors in life. I challenge anyone who reads this; look at the drawing I did when I was in high school. Even back then, I realized my temper was a problem. The rendition of the Hulk in the drawing reflects the Hulk that lived within me. If you struggle with your own inner monsters that reveal themselves at the most inopportune times, pick up the bible. Read Proverbs; all sorts of good wisdom in there about anger. And then learn that your inner Hulk can still sometimes try to come out.
But thanks to God's grace, and a little prayer and guidance, if you give your life to God - you might just be able to sate the rage of that Hulk within.