Thursday, November 27, 2008

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.

REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
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.

LOOKING IN THE WRONG PLACE
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.

AHA!
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 PROPOSED SOLUTION?
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.

OK, SO WHAT'S YOUR POINT, JESS?
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.

DEALING WITH THE GROWING MOLD OF ANGER
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.

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