It was a hot day in July.
(Don’t all blog posts about losing your temper start with “It was a hot day in July”?)
We were getting ready for a cross-country trip, and were in a rush to stain wood for a finish carpenter who would be working in our basement while we were away. That same day, I had a reaction to an antibiotic, ran a 102 degree fever, and broke out in hives. And I also had an infuriating phone conversation with the cable company that afternoon. Woe was little me.
Then something came up between Cristi and me—I haven’t the slightest recollection of what it was—and I totally lost my cool. I was yelling like a gutshot soldier. My journal entry about that day reads, “I don’t ever remember being so out of control or yelling so loud.” In my wrath and self-righteous drama, I stormed out of the house and slammed the front door with a thunderous clap.
In a matter of moments, two things happened that changed my life forever.
First, over my shoulder and through the window of our front door, I saw a large glicée painting of Christ that hung in our living room fall to the floor. I did not go back in to pick it up. How could I reenter the exhaust fumes of my rage?
Second, as I was almost to my car, our daughter Amy, who had just been baptized a few days before, came out on the front porch in tears and said, “Daddy, where are you going?”
I don’t remember what my answer was, but I have never forgotten the question. “Daddy, where are you going?”
When I got the courage to return home, I picked the picture of Christ up off the living room floor and rehung it. Even though it had fallen four or five feet, the frame and canvas had suffered no damage. Not a scratch. The picture of Christ was as sound as the day it was hung, but my self-esteem hung—sagged really—in shreds.
When I thought of the damage I had inflicted on myself and others that day, I gulped down my shame and pride with a painful swallow.
I have been angry and upset many times since then, but I have never lost my temper.
That was July 16, 1993. A day of personal infamy. I will never forget that day, nor the picture of Christ, untouched by human fury, and the tenderest question I have ever heard, “Daddy, where are you going?”
I was a changed man.