The human heart is capable of a wealth of emotions that can at once thrill and disturb. Personally, I wish at times I could isolate them, but they are too quickly convoluted beyond individual recognition.
I’ve begun meditating on the Psalms again. I’ve read through them many times — essential reading, really, for my profession as a worship pastor. I recommend to everyone, not just artists, to read through this ancient book of poetry, for the songwriters are not ashamed of their emotions that spring forth from the honest lyrics.
I came upon a line that sounded similar to a less rhythmic verse in another part of Scripture:
Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. –Psalm 4:4 ESV
In another place, Paul exhorts:
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger. –Ephesians 4:26 ESV
So what is it? Do we stay up and try to work things out or would it be better to sleep on it, as Meat Loaf once entreated.
Another (better) songwriter, Elton John wrote a gorgeous, little known ballad called “Tonight,” which features a long orchestral introduction. You can find the original on his Blue Moves or a live version on his Australia album. George Michael covers the song beautifully for Two Rooms, a tribute album, also a worthy find with Bruce Hornsby’s “Madman Across the Water,” Joe Cocker’s “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word,” and Tina Turner’s “The Bitch Is Back,” among many others. But I digress.
In “Tonight,” the poet (Bernie Taupin writes most of John’s lyrics) wonders why he and his lover must continue arguing. “It’s too late,” he says, “to chase the rainbow that you’re after. I’d like to find a compromise and place it into your hands. … Just let the curtains close in silence.”
Anger is an intriguing emotion, involving a perceived need to defend someone or something. How I react to what is being attacked determines whether I sin in my anger or not. What it is I am defending will also aid in my evaluation of what is and isn’t sin. Therefore, when I become angry, I need to determine what it is I’m trying to defend. Is it worthy of defense? If so, how can I defend it properly?
In Paul’s writing to the church at Ephesus, he is encouraging them toward community, specifically regarding speaking the truth to one another. Sometimes, frankly, the truth makes me angry. I can become so defensive, even when the truth is spoken to me in love. Instantly I want to lash back, instead of considering the words that spoken from a friend weren’t intended to hurt but to edify.
I think Paul was more logical than most of the Old Testament hymn writers. Artists, conversely, are right-brained thinkers, which is why they’re so creative. David, the artist, in Psalm 4 says, “You know, let me think on this one for a little while. Let me get alone with God before we try to hash this out.” Indeed, he says in the following verses that it would be good in the midst of anger to worship, trusting in God, who gives both peace and sleep.
I am slowly learning over the years to get to the bottom of my anger, not making hair trigger responses or burying my tangled feelings until they fester into full-grown bitterness.
How about you? What is it that you need to “ponder in your own hearts on your beds”?