Angry Like a Cactus

Angry Like a Cactus

And as soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. Exodus 32:19

Several years ago, my kids and I set out for an Arizona hike, when my son immediately got a jumping cholla cactus stuck to his shoe. The jumping cholla is so named because of the ease with which it sticks to anyone unfortunate enough to brush up against it. Once that cactus was attached to my son’s shoe, it wasn’t easy to remove. Bristling with spines, there was just no way to grab it without getting stuck to it myself. I finally took off my sock and used that to pull it free. Then, however, that cactus was hopelessly stuck to my sock. I whipped the sock in a direction opposite my kids, hoping to send the cactus flying, but somehow the cactus jumped off my sock in the wrong direction, lodging in my poor daughter’s scalp. So, I started all over, trying to grab hold of that cactus to remove it from her now-bleeding head. That turned into our shortest hike ever, as I learned a painful lesson – A cactus is a difficult thing to hold without hurting myself and those closest to me.

Anger is like that. Anger is the topic of today’s blog in which Moses came down from Mount Sinai to see his people worshipping a golden calf, in direct violation of God’s commandments. The passage doesn’t explicitly say whether Moses was right or wrong, but his response to Israel’s offense was pure rage. In hot anger, he threw the stone tablets down, shattering the commandments which God had written in his own hand. This can be interpreted two ways. You could say that Moses appropriately broke the ten commandments symbolizing how his people broke them. Or, you could say that Moses threw a big boy tantrum and impulsively destroyed that which God had given. I tend towards the latter interpretation, but I could be wrong.

Still, in contemplating Moses’ anger, I must analyze my own anger. When I’m angry, it’s also my first impulse to smash something. Anger is intoxicating, making me say and do things that I wouldn’t normally do. In my anger, I believe I’m justified and righteous, but my actions and words often prove otherwise. Even when I’m right, in my anger, I act wrong. I may like to think my anger is righteous like Moses, but indulging in my rage is usually a recipe for disaster. Anger, like a cactus, is a hard thing to hold without hurting myself and everyone around me.

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