A Long Nose for Anger
A few weeks ago my family moved, and we went online to reserve a moving truck. They were supposed to call us the day before our move to let us know where to pick up the truck. They never called. We tried several different numbers and offices, but no one could help us. Eventually we rented a truck from another company. Then they charged us fifty bucks for canceling our reservation. My wife was immediately indignant. This is not right! She grew angry, called the company, and gave the poor customer service person a piece of her mind. And it worked; we got our refund.
For those of us with a bent towards perfectionism and orderliness, anger is tempting. At its best, anger demands justice and fair dealing. But when projects go awry, we grow frustrated and vent on our coworkers. When expectations aren’t met, we turn on others or ourselves. How does a person know when anger is righteous and appropriate, or counterproductive and destructive?
What helps me is an image from scripture of the nose of God. Of course, God doesn’t literally have a physical nose. But in several places in the Old Testament, God is described with nostrils flaring at injustice. Psalm 18:8 says, “Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth.”
A second image balances the first one: Exodus 34:6 (KJV) says, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth.” The Hebrew word for “longsuffering” is literally “long of nose.” Anger shows in flared nostrils and snorting, like enraged people with reddened noses. But God is “long of nose,” meaning that it takes much longer for his wrath to kindle. The same word for “long of nose” is in Psalm 103:8: “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.”
So consider what it means to follow our long-nosed God. Yes, He bristles at injustice, and rightfully so. But He is long of nose, longsuffering, slow to anger. And He does not hold to resentment indefinitely; Psalm 103:9 continues, “He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever.” If we would be more like God, we would be slow to anger; we would be cautious to express our anger and direct it only against those things truly unjust, not petty annoyances that rub us the wrong way. And we will not harbor our anger forever; once a situation is resolved, we move on. May our noses be long like God’s!