The table was shoved over in a fit of rage when I was around eight. There’d been a bit of squabbling at the table, as happens between eight-year-old and four-year-old kids, but nothing out of the ordinary. It came as a complete shock. It was apparently the last straw; the one that broke the camel’s back. The flimsy card table in our tiny Italian kitchen was suddenly flipped over. There was a scream, and tomato rice soup was flying everywhere. What just happened? Our entire lunch was on the floor; the table upended on its side. And suddenly it was silent.
As I surveyed the red creamy soup splattered all over the walls and in puddles on the floor, we began to cry. My little sister started yelling, “My tooth! My tooth!” In a flurry of activity, we ran to kneel on the floor beside her and look into her mouth. Fear. Had the table smacked her in the face on its way down? Then, suddenly relief, as the discovery came… “It’s a piece of rice! It’s just a piece of rice!”
I guess it was the relief, because it surely wasn’t joy, that brought the nervous laughter. Suddenly we got the impression it was not so bad after all. In fact, it was all quite funny. But it was actually only funny, because we were trained to believe it was so. The brainwashing had set in long before. I knew what to do. I was supposed to laugh along; make light of the situation. That way no one would get mad… and I wouldn’t get into trouble. And then we could all put a smile on our face and pretend it had never happened.
What was that after all? Was it abuse, or was it righteous anger?
Well, let’s compare it to another scenario from a time long before. Instead of little kids bickering at the kitchen table, there were money changers in the courts of God’s Holy Temple. And they weren’t innocently sitting at tables eating their lunch. No. They were sitting at tables exchanging foreign money. And instead of having a little argument to top it off, merchants were also selling sheep, cattle, and doves to be sacrificed. Instead of children facing an angry woman, the merchants and money changers came face to face with an angry man… an angry man who just happened to be the Son of God!
Jesus didn’t shove a flimsy table of food to the ground; he shoved multiple tables, scattering tons of coins: here, there, and everywhere! If that wasn’t frightening enough, he created a whip out of cords, and sent the animals running hither and dither from the temple’s courtyard! Merchants and money changers were in his Father’s House, and Jesus was mad as a hornet! Did you know that Jesus yelled too?! “To those who sold doves he said, ‘Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market’ ” (John 2:16 New International Version)!
What was that after all? Was it abuse? Or was it righteous anger?
Well, if you had to choose which situation to witness, which one would you pick? I know which one I would choose. For the silver lining is in knowing that my Savior is good, and perfect, and pure. Though the scene with Jesus was extra dramatic, I would have surveyed the whole scene with peace, instead of anxiety. I would have sat on the sidelines knowing that his corded whip was not for me, nor the righteous anger, nor the disciplinary action. I also wouldn’t have been forced to fake laugh, and pretend I was okay. This is because my confidence is in Christ. My Savior knows what he is doing, has a purpose for it all the time, and it is always good.
I can see myself as a small, skinny eight-year-old girl, about the age of my daughter, sitting on a wall in the courtyard. I’m watching Jesus; glad that he is clearing the temple of the bad guys. I’m sitting in my ratty brown robe, barefoot, swinging my legs against the stone wall, waiting for him to finish his work. I can hardly wait for him to toss down the whip and head over to me. Everyone is gone; the merchants, the buyers, the money changers, and the animals. It’s just me left. As he comes towards me, I bow my head, but it’s not out of fear.
It’s out of reverence. It’s because I know he’s getting ready to pull me into his comforting, warm embrace of unconditional love. My head is down because I know his hand is going to touch the top of my curly auburn head, and he’s going to say, “I love you, my child. There’s nothing to fear.” But I’m not afraid anyway. And when I look up into his beautiful, dark face, and smile into his kind, brown eyes; I nod my head. I can’t talk, because I’m overjoyed. But he understand me. He can read my mind. He knows I’ve remembered. He knows that I, just like “His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me” (John 2:17).
Dear God, turn the tables in my life. Where I am weak, make me strong. Cleanse my mind of the lies I was taught as a child. Fill me with The Holy Spirit, and open my eyes to the truth. Instead of bitter anger, help me to continue to forgive those who have sinned against me, just as you have forgiven those who have sinned against you. Remove the deceit from those who have become blind to the truth. Bring instead, wisdom and discernment, to those who seek Your Face.
Years later, I’m on fire for You, Lord. My speech, and my body have experienced the shaking strength of righteous anger, and in it I did not sin; just as you my Savior, did not sin in the temple courtyard. I am zealous for you, Jesus. I’m zealous for others to make their home with you in Heaven. It consumes me, and I don’t care if the world hates me for it. Even if I’m the only one left sitting in your courtyard, I will wait for you to come get me. I want to live in your house forever. I want my home to be wherever you may be. Thank you for saving me. Thank you for your eternal love.