Give Me Twenty!

Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? … Sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it. ~ Genesis 4:6-7

Spring is coming. The days are getting longer and warmer. I saw a yellow flower budding close to the ground earlier this week. Parts of our yard are green, and the trees are growing buds. When I walk, blue jays stay just in front of me, flitting from one wooden fence post to the next. I think they are leading me down the yellow brick road.

When I wander down J Road, I watch our high school track team. Kids are running around the track, stretching on the football field, and soaking up the sun. I always enjoyed the pace of track season when I was in high school. It was the only time during the school year when the boys and the girls would work out together. So, there was a great deal of “comical” strutting and preening going on.

We would have well over a hundred kids running, jumping, and throwing heavy objects all around our track facility which was our football stadium as well. It was amazing more kids did not get hurt. One beautiful sunny spring day with a slight breeze, I was running “440’s” around the track with the other middle-distance runners. Just as we passed the first turn on the track, we heard a violent crack like lightning hitting a tree.

Then we heard Coach Pitts’ thunderous voice, “Everybody stop! Nobody move!” Pitts was built like a cross between a bowling ball and a bull. He was the head track coach and the assistant football coach whom we feared most. Pitts marched across the football field hollering and screaming at the top of his lungs, but he did not say a cuss word because that was against the rules.

We froze in terror. The lion found his prey at the pole vault pit and bellowed, “Tommy Lee, what happened?” Tommy, a candidate for “Most Friendliest” boy in our school, was holding half of a broken pole vault pole. “I planted my pole in the box, and it snapped, Coach.”

“I told you that pole was cracked!” the lion roared again. Tommy Lee made an egregious mistake; he mumbled under his breath and the lion screamed, “Everybody give me 20!” All of us boys, who knew the law of the jungle, dropped down on the track and started doing twenty push-ups.

The girls, who were not officially part of our lion “pride” yet, stood paralyzed. Our king shouted, “That includes you girls as well. Give me twenty. Somebody could get hurt out here. We can’t mess around!” Pitts knew how to maintain law and order. The girls dropped down to the ground and started doing push-ups as well.

When everyone finished their penance, the lion said calmly, “Finish your workouts, and don’t mess around out here. We don’t want anyone to get hurt.” That was that.

A couple of weeks later, my friend Billy said, “Did you hear the big news?” “What?” “Pitts is engaged to Miss Williams.” “No way.” Miss Williams was our new English teacher, and everyone was in love with her because she had hair like Farah Fawcett. “How could she marry him? He’s a mad man,” I said.

Years later, I became a teacher and a coach in a small town just like the one I grew up in, in Texas. Jennifer and I were newlyweds. Our students would ring our doorbell and run, but we could see them hiding in the bushes across the street. We ate all-you can-eat fajitas at the Last Chance Café with our students and their parents.

Life was good, very good. And, as I grew into adulthood with all the accompanying responsibilities, I discovered I had a temper. “The destructive potential of anger affects us all,” writes the Reverend Marjorie Thompson. “We don’t want to feel it; yet we do. Often it seems easier or safer simply to deny or suppress this emotion.” Or, I might add, we justify our anger even when it is not righteous.

I cannot count the number of times as a coach that I roared in anger at the young men playing for me. “Give me twenty!” And, if anyone asked a question I yelled louder, “Make it thirty.” I knew the law of the jungle.

“Often anger is rooted in hurt and fear. Hurt and fear make us feel threatened physically, emotionally, or relationally. The feeling of threat may arise from unmet need,” writes Thompson.

What we do with our anger can make or break our relationships. We can see the effects of unhinged anger in our personal relationships as well as our national and international politics.

Reverend Thompson says, “Facing and naming our anger offers a good place to start dealing with it. The challenge is not to get rid of this feeling but to understand why it arises and how to deal with this feeling constructively.” “Give me twenty!” “Lock her up!” “Make them pay!” “Destroy them!” “Kill them!”  Jesus, the Prince of Peace, employed none of these strategies.

Is Love and Forgiveness the answer to our anger? Can we name our anger and work with it in constructive and not destructive ways?

This week I looked at my old high school annual and some pictures of Coach Pitts. He has a soft smile with his lips closed. He looks like a cuddly teddy bear; I can see why Miss Williams married him. I hope they have had a good life together. I can see myself, good and not so good, in Coach Pitts as well. Thank God, healing is always possible.

I pray that all of us with Christ’s grace may master our anger so that it does not master us. May we live as forgiven children of God.

Blessings and peace,


Posted in Meditations.