September 7, 2014 by Renee Griffin
Have you ever lost your temper to the point you were ready to “sling dukes”? It’s one of those crazy expressions the hubs and I enjoy. It means somebody is mad and ready to fight. The following post depicts a time when I was ready to “sling dukes”.
I was that angry.
In Ephesians 4:26-27, the Bible says we need to watch ourselves when we get angry.
“In your anger, do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry and do not give the devil a foothold.”
Can’t say that I have mastered this standard or even come close, but my life has been full of opportunities to practice. When I ended my story in Life Is Brief, I mentioned that I was about to get angry. I did.
After learning that my birthfather passed, the next day I traveled to his hometown. I was invited to his friend’s home. She was the one who called to tell me he had died. She was the one who had cared for him after he lost his sight.
When I arrived, my temper almost unleashed itself like a wild animal from leaping from a cage. The opportunity for sin abounded.
Finding my birthfather in the last year of his life, didn’t allow much time to fully understand the dynamics of his personal relationships. As I have shared in an earlier post, he was legally blind. Years before his mama went to the nursing home, he lost his ability to drive. A kind hearted person in his life took over caring for him. He always spoke well of her in the few times we talked about her. Even when he asked me for the DNA test, which was her idea, he framed the request in a positive light saying she was only looking out for us both.
I never had a reason to doubt her motives.
Sadly, she doubted mine.
She requested meeting at her house instead of going my birthfather’s house. I was too overcome with grief to fully consider why she made this request. I walked in her door looking to embrace those few who were mourning the loss. Instead, I quickly realized that she had a different agenda. She’d asked me to come to her home so she’d be on her turf. There was a pastor there, a few of her friends, and me. She invited me to sit down among this group of strangers. She said there were things we needed to discuss.
Explosions began going off in my brain as I tried to process what came next.
She began by bringing me “up to speed” with the person that my birthfather was in her opinion. He’d only been dead for a day, but she wanted me to understand what a difficult person he was to deal with.
For some unknown reason, she implied I didn’t really know him.
She started explaining to me who he really was…according to her. He was this, and he was that. None of the descriptors were uplifting or positive. I listened for a few minutes and tried to steer the conversation in a different direction unsuccessfully. It was clear the agenda had been decided in advance.
Now, I had traveled 90 miles of tears racing to be in the last place I had spent time with my birthfather. I was still in shock over finding him, much less accepting he was gone. I had come to her home to help make arrangements for his funeral. I was there because I loved him, and my heart was shattered. I was not there to be disrespectful of the dead, nor to entertain anything that was said about him that was mean. Responses to her were forming in my brain, but quickly stopped with her next point. She told me that I was welcome to help with arrangements as long as I understood one thing. And then the bomb dropped…
Everything that belonged to him was hers.
She wanted to me to understand that I was not entitled to any of his things. She was entitled to everything.
The house was hers. The life insurance policy was hers. The bank accounts were hers. The contents of the house…yep…hers.
She needed to make that clear to me before planning his funeral would begin.
Let me just pause here for a minute while my pulse slows because typing this makes me go white hot all over again.
She wanted to discuss his things? I was there for HIM. I was not there for his things.
In the grand scheme of life, everything he had left on this earth before he went to be with Jesus held little financial value. The only things that truly mattered to him were his guitars and his boots. The things in the house and the house itself had been passed to him from his mama before she went into the nursing home.
To feel the need to clarify the estate before the funeral even occurred was sickening to me.
All of a sudden as the opportunity to totally lose my grits and go off on this chick began to swell, I started to have a panicky feeling. While I sat listening to this disrespectful, ridiculous discussion of things, a question raced into my heart.
Where is he? In the midst of all the talk about how everything belonged to her, I asked this question. Where is he??? Where is his body?
Shocked by my question, she replied simply, “At the hospital.”
His body was still at the hospital waiting for the arrangements to be made. The funeral home had yet to be notified.
So, hold on… Let me understand. You have been waiting on me to arrive so you could straighten me out on who gets the stuff, and meanwhile his body lays unclaimed in a hospital morgue?
While this knowledge did its best to settle down somewhere in my consciousness, like a hummingbird circling the feeder looking for a spot to land, the phone rang.
It was for her.
The life insurance company was on the line. Her claim was being processed.
My mind was reeling. The anger was growing as I began to process that she’d found time to claim the insurance money, but not claim his body.
I had to go outside and get some air. My stomping feet made loud booms through her house as I practically ran out the door. I was gulping air between the burning tears crossing my lips as fumbled with my phone. I had to call the hubs. He was on his way there, and I needed him to hurry. When he answered, I told him to drive faster cause I was about to need back up.
I could feel an explosion about to come forth.
All I could pray was this. God, please help me.
What I wanted to do was to go back inside and punch her in the face.
That’s not very Christian of me, but that is the truth. I thank God for giving me restraint and a super strong desire to stay out of jail. Instead, I waited outside and paced the yard until he arrived. I wasn’t going back inside alone. Boy, was I glad to see him pull up. Together we went back in the house.
Walking back into that lion’s den, the tears and hurt pushed to the side, I was ready to fight. I sat down and put my hand on the hub’s leg. Maybe I dug my nails in a bit… I needed to hold onto to him and give my left hook something to do.
When I opened my mouth the words came rushing out. I looked at the hubs in the middle of my speech and said, “Tell me if I go too far.” I didn’t trust myself. What all I said isn’t necessary to recount, but needless to say, the air was clear after that. I was there to help bury my birthfather. Period.
How dare she falsely accuse me of being some gold-digging opportunist who was only there for things! Ridiculous!!! I was furious. The enormity of what had just taken place floors me still.
We left. I didn’t punch anybody.
We went to the nursing home next to see his mama. I debated on whether to share these events with her because I didn’t want her upset. However, she had a way of getting information out of you. She would set her baby blues on you and know you were hiding something. I gave her an abbreviated version only to find that she wasn’t surprised. She had a past history with this person. The arrangements for her son were HERS to make. She was more than happy to share this time with her granddaughter. It’s what HE would have wanted.
We called the funeral home & made arrangements. My family & I left the nursing home and went to the next town over to the funeral home. The details that happened next are long and tedious so I will just share a summary.
What I wanted to happen was to spend time in his house and remember. I wanted to go sit in his chair and cling to the fresh memory of his voice. What I got instead was a quick, supervised walk through his home so I could gather a few things his mama wanted at the funeral. Arrangements for a service were made. I did my best to honor the man that I loved. I pushed the hurt and pain inflicted during this already devastating time to the side so that I could try to say goodbye.
My grandmother could not understand how everything that was left in her house under her son’s care was no longer hers. There were items of little to no financial value, picture albums, precious family mementos that she wanted. Trying to help her accept that her things were not her things anymore was difficult. It was a train wreck. She requested that I contact an attorney which I did on her behalf. Turns out Miss Everything had already done that too, and I received quite a nasty letter in the mail notifying me that legally I was not family. Wow… yeah… Okay… How did I get dragged into such a nightmare?
People, my anger initially was ridiculous. It consumed me. Crying out to God, I couldn’t understand what the purpose was in all of this. I cried and stomped my feet and cried more. How was I going to deal with my anger and the hurt upon hurt? I couldn’t get for my grandmother the things she wanted from her house. I would never hold the photo albums documenting my biological history. I had to accept the fact that all of these articles of history were lost to me. I assumed they had been thrown away or sold at a yard sale. I would never get to go back to his house. So much loss and no time or way to process it normally. Everything was lost. Or so I thought.
Eight is the Hebrew number meaning new beginnings. God showed me 8 months later that the story isn’t over until He says it is over.
In time, my anger gave way to obedience to God, and I forgave her. I worked my way through all of the emotions and found my way to true forgiveness. I forgave Miss Everything for everything. From my heart, I released her to the LORD and let go. I was willing to fight for my grandmother’s rights, but God called me to lay down my weapons. It was hard. I didn’t want to disappoint her, but I have a greater desire to obey God. The anger had consumed me and separated me from fellowship with my Father. I had to choose. I chose Jesus. He is my Everything.
Eight months later, God proved to me that He will fight for me. Everything is in His Hands.
That same lawyer who notified me that I had no claim to my birthfather’s “estate” sent me another letter. Since my grandmother was in a wheelchair in a nursing home, she asked me to be her legal guardian. I began taking care of her immediately after my birthfather’s death.
The lawyer was notifying me as her guardian, eight months later, that the contents of the house…everything inside… belonged to the “estate” of my birthfather. All the things, those that amounted to nothing financially, but everything emotionally, were available to me as my grandmother’s guardian.
Oh, Jesus. You make everything right.
I look back now with a huge smile at the sweet lessons He taught me in this crazy, out-of-control situation. I was in a place where my anger was consuming me and holding me prisoner. He showed me firsthand that my anger is a false strength. The only real strength I have is in the Name of Jesus. My anger was a weakness. And just like the scripture tells us, He used my weakness to show His Mighty Strength. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:10, “When I am weak, then I am strong.”
So, yeah, 8 months after I was sure all was lost, a group of family and friends went back to the place I thought I’d never see again. I was able to stay and sit and say goodbye. Through tears of love and thankfulness, we loaded up those family treasures. It was nothing short of a miracle that everything was left in the house just as it was on the day my birthfather died. God kept it safe. Nothing was missing.
Friend, don’t let anger over a situation where you were wronged hold you prisoner. Give it to God. He will fight for you. Everything that He intends to be in your life will be there. Forgive when you don’t want to. Let go of past hurts. Lay down your weapons. Choose to obey the One Who goes before you and fight for you. Everything you hold onto that separates you from God may be the very things keeping you from everything good He wants to give you.
And please, don’t punch anybody in the face. 🙂