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The Spirit Of God Breathing Within Me Is My Hope

by Eric Elkin

Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life.
— Ephesians 4: 26-27 (The Message)

“Don’t,” a quick word of prohibition one uses when saying, "do not” takes too much time. Rarely is the word spoken without passion. And, despite its simplicity, the word has a way of burying itself deep within our souls. 


Any comment that begins with "don’t" makes the person receiving it stop and think, “What have I done wrong?” If you’re from Minnesota, you probably also think, “Why is this person mad at me?”


Reading the word in print reminds me of all the times I’ve been told, “Don’t.”  There were the times it was spoken when I did something wrong. Those memories force me to recall a time of embarrassment. 


On some occasions, it was spoken without cause,  which made me feel unjustly punished. Either way, it’s not a word that makes me feel good about myself.


"Holy Don’ts” are even harder to digest. Especially when the person using it is trying to grow my understanding of the gracious love of God. You are saved by grace but don’t grieve God, don’t go to bed angry, don’t let anything dirty come out of your mouth. Don’t give the devil a foothold. 


It leaves me wondering, what’s so free about grace?

If you accept the belief that baptism incorporates us in the mystical body of Christ, into the divine DNA, then you might say that the Holy Spirit is present in each of us, and thus we have the capacity for the fullness of redemption, of transformation.
— Thomas Keating

In this reading today, I don’t score very well. I think the advice, “Don’t go to bed angry,” is the crappiest wisdom in the world. Darn it, there I go, letting foul things come out of my mouth. I’m sure these foul things score as grieving God. So, it’s not even 7 am and I’ve already screwed up the day.


Dear author of Ephesians, I want you to know I appreciate your enthusiasm for trying to help me become a better human being. However, I want you to know I will go to bed angry because sometimes I need to process my anger before speaking. Sometimes when I am tired and frustrated, I say things I don’t really mean. 


Dear author of Ephesians, I do get angry. Thank you for permission to feel this way and affirming my vulnerability to feeling this way. However, there are times foul words help me express and process this anger, so the devil doesn’t get a foothold. Granted, it does not play well with audiences. But there are certain slang words in the English vocabulary which help me feel good.


Finally, author of Ephesians, I am quite confident I grieve God. Heck, I grieve a lot of people why should God be spared? I’m going to bypass your wisdom of don’t and focus on the one thing which keeps me going, God’s Holy Spirit moving and breathing within me. It is the most significant power in my life. The part which makes all the other crap seem minor and powerless.  


Click to read Ephesians 4:25 - 5:2

Reflection Questions:

  • How does the word, “Don’t” make you feel?
  • When has it been used positively in your life?
  • When has it left you feeling bad?
  • What is the purpose for the use of the word in developing a mature faith life?

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