Throwing Chicken Legs and Other Temper Tantrums
Aug 21, 2016 02:38AM
By Bonnie Lyn Smith
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I sometimes throw temper tantrums. It’s not often, but when it happens, it’s not pretty. My husband could probably tell you every single one I’ve had in my adult life because he’s usually the main audience. Lucky him.
Tonight at dinner, I was reminded of one I threw a few years ago when I was a frustrated young mother and housewife on a tiny island in the South Pacific, feeling trapped and suffocated by the fishbowl lifestyle of a small population on an American military base far from home. While my husband was having the time of his life biking to work every day, home by 5 PM, scuba diving, and in general enjoying a more peaceful, simplified existence, I was still cleaning messes, training small children, and sweating out the bike ride to preschool every day pulling the bike trailer with 80 pounds of two kids in it in 87 degree weather and high humidity. My life didn’t suddenly become paradise. I was still doing the same routine with young children—just in a different setting where I had the added fun of watching many people enjoy themselves while I merely changed venues but not jobs. I was still vomit cleaner, toilet scrubber, and bedtime reader—
—but I digress.
Tonight at the dinner table, as my now-seven-years-older children were raising their voices and tension was escalating, my cousin who was visiting recalled a time when she was so frustrated as a child that she threw a chicken leg at her brother. While my children delighted in this story from the 1970s, it brought me back to one particular boiling point of my own during my island days.
I remembered, somewhat painfully, why one of my Farberware pan lids has a dent in it. It carries with it the story of a ready-to-blow mother who did not feel heard or understood—one whose depression was coming to an ugly head and whose voice sounded so weak and powerless, I thought I had to throw something to launch it further out into the universe. In one particularly frustrated moment, I hurled that lid across the kitchen floor with the power of an Olympic discus throw athlete. Nobody was with me at the time, but I used so much force that I hurt my arm. I remember being so ashamed afterward because it felt so good to do something so out of control. It was as if my desperate cry was finally making its way out.
But it wasn’t the best way to express myself, and I felt as if I were two years old.
Why is this long trip down memory lane making itself into a faith column?
Because it seems to me that we Christians do this all the time with God. We hold everything in, pretending we can stuff it down and power through on our own strength, but in the end, we stifle the voice He gave us—the one He wants us to talk to Him with. We shut down the conversation, yet we wonder why He is so silent. So we first check in, remind Him we're here, and even use pleas from the Bible to suggest how He can help us. In the meantime, we’re seething with anger and disappointment.
But Christians aren’t supposed to question or be angry with God, right? So we put on our pretty smile and fester some more. We marinate in martyrdom that God has left us all alone and isn’t answering.
And we start throwing chicken. And pan lids. And heaven only knows what else.
Ever get to that point?
This is why I completely adore King David in the Old Testament because he cries honestly out to the Lord. He doesn’t hold anything back. His intimacy with God is such that he can get real with His Father in heaven and not play pretend. He doesn’t need the temper tantrum because he expresses himself truthfully all along. He knows God wants an open heart to share relationship with Him. David keeps the dialogue open and healthy. He understands so much about the God who loves and seeks us.
At the beginning of his song to the Lord, David addresses the choirmaster with a testimony of God’s goodness in his time of angst.
Psalm 18:1, ESV
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, the servant of the LORD, who addressed the words of this song to the LORD on the day when the LORD rescued him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. He said: I love you, O LORD, my strength.
He then explains that he called out to God and God heard him. In reading through the many Psalms David has penned—so many like this one—it is clear he expressed himself to the LORD openly and frequently. He poured out his heart on a regular basis.
Psalm 18:6, ESV
In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.
I often think if we followed David’s example, we’d be less prone to freak-out sessions where we lash out at a God we hadn’t really been talking to or truly vulnerable with in the first place. How can we complain about that which we never communicated to our God?
Perhaps this would be a better way to work through our angst than tossing chicken bones and Farberware lids.
Imagine if we “got real” with God every day?
And then imagine if this translated into healthier interaction with the people closest to us because we learned how to express ourselves safely and lovingly as tension arose instead of blowing up after holding it in?
Would it quell the rage we sometimes feel when we get to a breaking point? Would it keep us from that point—that precipice from which we often crash—more often?
I’m thinking it’s worth a try.
Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about parenting, marriage, mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, the healing cloak of Jesus, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.
Her book, Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day, offers anecdotes on all of these subjects and Scripture for each situation as well as Book Discussion Questions for deeper exploration.