Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Good and Beautiful Life: Chapter 4

In chapter 4 of James Bryan Smith's The Good and Beautiful Life: Putting on the Character of Christ, Smith writes about learning to live without anger.
He recounts a time when he grew increasingly angry sitting in California traffic, thinking that he might be late for a church retreat.  His anger moved through his body until he could feel it taking over. His brother, driving, remained calm, knowing that they were just in a temporary bottleneck, and would be flying along the freeway soon.  Jim does, in fact, reach his retreat on time, with room for a shower, rest, and prayer time before it began.  His earlier anger embarrassed him in retrospect, but led him to think about the roots of this kind of emotional response.

Jim determined that anger develops from a combination of unmet expectations and fear (often in the form of insecurity or a sense of threat). In Jim's case, sitting in traffic, he had been hoping for some downtime before the retreat would begin, and he was afraid that he might actually be so late that he would be a "no show." The thought combination created a major angry response.

But the stories he was telling himself turned out to be false narratives.  Jim lists several examples of false narratives we have a tendency to tell ourselves--narratives that only lead to problems.  His list includes things like, "Something terrible with happen if I make a mistake," "I must be in control all of the time," and "I need to anticipate everything that will happen to me today."
Looking at the list on page 73, which one of these false narratives is most common in your life and how does it lead to anger?
All of these false narratives are grounded in fear and the need to be in control.  Jim identifies this need to control and live from our own resources instead of God's as "walking in the flesh" (page 74).  He contrasts "walking in the flesh" with "being led by the Spirit."
How is it sinful to live in the flesh?
How would you describe/ explain the difference between the false narrative our author first talked about, and the kingdom narratives we should replace them with (found on page 76)?
On page 74, Jim says, "Unrighteous anger rarely happens when we are led by the Spirit. It is spawned by not seeing our situation in light of God's kingdom." This led me to ask myself, "How would it change things to see my situation [whatever it is at the time] in light of God's kingdom?"

Further, on page 76, he writes about new "kingdom narratives" and it made me think:
"If I truly believe in the reality of the presence and power of God, then it will change the way I see things."
God never loses sight of us and never permits anything to happen to us that he can't redeem and use for good.
How does this impact anger? Do you have any evidence from your life of anger diminishing as you come to know that God is near you and working for your good?
Describe "the good kind of anger."
The good kind of anger is a correct response to injustice, to the things that anger God. The good kind of anger leads to remedying wrongs.  The good kind of anger motivates us to work toward change.
Give examples of righteous anger in today's world.
In closing, spend time with these words from Galatians 5:16-17:
"So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want."
The Soul Training exercise for this chapter called for us to keep a Sabbath as a spiritual exercise to help us better deal with our anger.  Because "anger is about unmet expectations and fear" and "sabbath is about trusting God and his ways,"  Sabbath becomes a kind of antidote to anger. Rather than trying to keep things going by our own strength, we take time out to rely on God's grace.  
"Rest. Trust. Surrendering control. These are the core elements of sabbath keeping, and they can help us deal with anger" (page 81).
How did you attempt to keep a Sabbath, using Jim's suggestions on pages 82 and 83?
What connection did you experience between keeping a Sabbath and controlling anger?
What did you learn about God or yourself from your Sabbath rest?

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