As Nannygranne sat on her front porch, enjoying the spring afternoon, her little neighbor, Lizzy, rode her bicycle across the street and pulled up to her porch. She didn’t offer her usual smile but averted her eyes when Nannygranne waved at her.
“Well, hello, Lizzy, I’m glad you came to see me. Would you have some grape Kool-Aid with me? I have some cookies, too.”
“Ok,” Lizzy responded unenthusiastically.
“Hey, I’m missing your smile. I’ll get our snacks if you’ll watch my book and not let the wind blow it around.”
“Ok,” she repeated, still without smiling.
When the older woman returned with refreshments, they sat in silence for a minute or so. Nannygranne knew Lizzy would talk when she was ready. Smiling at her and brushing the hair out of the child’s eyes, she offered, “What are you wondering about, Lizzy, that’s making you sad?” She put the book back in its place in her lap.
After a few seconds, Lizzy spoke but still avoided Nannygranne’s eyes. “Why won’t God let me be mad?”
“When did you decide God won’t let you be mad?”
“My momma told me it made God sad when I’m mad at my brother. But she can get mad at my daddy.” Now Lizzy glanced at her older friend. Then, returning her glare to the ground, she crossed her arms with a huff.
“Did that make you mad when she said that?” Nannygranne knew the child was wrestling with normal emotions along with struggling with the inconsistency in processing messages. Children tend to be literal and consequently spot inconsistencies more quickly than adults realize.
“Yes.” Arms still folded, Lizzy kicked at gravel on the porch.
“When I was a little girl, Lizzy, my daddy used to tell me that he was the only one in our family who was supposed to get mad, and nobody else.”
Now Lizzy’s eyes met Nannygranne’s. “He did? What did you do?”
“Well, I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t help feeling mad sometimes and it worried me. Even when I grew up, I thought that if I felt angry, I was doing something very wrong. But I couldn’t help those feelings happening. They just kept happening.”
“What did you do?” Lizzy repeated.
“Well, I had a lot of visits with Jesus’ book, the Bible. You know what I found out?”
Nannygranne could tell she had Lizzy’s full attention.
“I found out that anger is not a sin because Jesus never sinned and He got angry several times. Anger is a feeling, that’s all.”
Lizzy froze. “He did? Jesus got mad?”
“Yes, He did. In fact, Jesus got so angry one time that He made a whip and used it to run some people and their animals out of God’s worship place, the temple in Jerusalem.”1
Lizzy’s eyes popped wide open. “He did! Jesus really got mad, didn’t He!”
“Another time He got mad at His best friend and yelled for him to get away because he wasn’t talking right.”
“What did His friend say? Did he say an ugly word?”
“No, Lizzy. It was the Apostle Peter and he told Jesus not to do what God had told Him to do.”2
“Did Jesus hit Peter, too?”
“No, the only time Jesus ever hit anyone was that one day. But do you know what is different when Jesus is angry and when you and I are angry?”
“Different? How can mad be different?” Lizzy tilted her head quizzically.
“Well if we’re not careful, we get mad and then do something we shouldn’t or say something we shouldn’t. But sometimes we’re angry about something and so is God. That’s the right kind of anger.”3
“So, there is bad anger and good anger?”
“Well, anytime we’re angry, we need to stop talking and ask ourselves if we’re being selfish, or if something bad is happening to someone else.”
“When I get mad at my brother, is that bad anger?” Lizzy was still processing.
“Only if you hit him or say something mean to him. But if you’re mad at your brother because he’s being mean to someone else, then use your anger to move you to stop your brother. Do you see the difference?”
After a few seconds, she said, “I think so. When can I hit him?”
Nannygranne laughed. “Oh Lizzy! You’re so goofy! Why don’t you pay attention to your feelings and then decide what you think God would want you to do?”
Offering to take Lizzy’s empty cup, Nannygranne gave her a napkin for the chocolate crumbs on her face. “One time Jesus was so angry He cried. But He wasn’t angry because someone was mad at Him, He was angry because Satan had hurt his good friend Lazarus and broken that family’s heart.4 That’s why Jesus came from Heaven to here, to stop Satan from hurting people so badly.
“Another time, Jesus was in worship and noticed a man with a broken and mashed hand. He could hear some of the people around him thinking He’d better not heal that man because it was worship time. That made Jesus mad. He told the man just to stand up and Jesus healed that man’s hand right then and there. Instead of being glad, some of the people got mad because Jesus had broken their rules. Jesus really didn’t like that kind of stuff.” 5
Lizzy was glad to hear of Jesus’ anger. These were stories she’d never heard before.
“But one time, Jesus really told off some people who were lying to God on the inside. He called them names and told them they were dirty on the inside and pretended to be God’s people. They even kept people from coming to God.”6
“Wow! I did not know Jesus got mad, too.” Lizzy said.
“Yes, but Jesus was only angry with people who should have known better than to hurt God or others. Jesus never just got mad because somebody wasn’t nice to Him or messed with His stuff. The Bible says, “Everyone must be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” Do you think you could remember that verse?”
“Yes. Everyone must be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” Lizzy’s smile said it all. “So, when I get mad, I need to stop talking, listen to my heart, and then don’t hit my brother.”
Nannygranne giggled and offered Lizzy her a high-five. “That’s a great start, Lizzy. I still have to remember that verse because sometimes I get mad and I have to stop talking, listen to my heart, and then not punch somebody! And I usually have to pray, too.”
“Well, I better go home. Maybe I can tell Momma and Daddy my new verse.” As Lizzy rode away, Nannygranne could hear her chanting, “Stop, listen, and pray…. Stop, listen, and pray…”
1 Matt 21:12; Mk 11:15; Jn 2:14-15
2 Matt 16:33; Mk 8:33; Lk 4:8
3 Ephesians 4:6
4 John 11:30-36
5 Mark 3:5
6 Matt 23:25-32