Living in Southern California, you get used to this thing called “fire season.” Unlike typical seasons based on the tilt of the earth’s axis, this season is shortened or elongated based on how much rain there has been, the amount of dead brush, and wind conditions. During fire season, one has to be very cautious because as Smokey the Bear says “Only you can prevent forest fires.”
Despite Smokey’s admonition, there is another way that officials try to prevent uncontrolled blazes. This is by creating what they call a “controlled burn.” To initiate this process, they purposely set a fire and then monitor it as it burns the dead brush. The idea is that if the spots are already burned, another inferno can’t consume it. It has the same strength as the unintentional blaze, but it has the discipline to use its power in a way that is useful.
In much the same way, Proverbs 16:32 teaches us that when we control the fire of our temper, we are stronger than when we lose control of it. As the verse states:
Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.
This is a great description of what it means to be a person of “power” in God’s eyes. It’s not the one who is the loudest, who has acquired the most, or who has the most prestige – but the one who is disciplined and controlled and conducts themselves in a way that honors God.
This is not an easy thing. After all, when the blaze of anger wells within us, we want to let full vent to our fury. However, much like a controlled blaze prevents further damage, so does controlling our temper. Appearances to the contrary, the one who “rules his spirit” is stronger than the one who can capture an entire city. When we are slow to anger, we are willing to wait to see how God works.
A controlled burn is no less a fire than an out-of-controlled blaze. Much like someone who is slow to anger, may be experiencing just as much righteous indignation as the person who is quick to display their temper. However, both a controlled anger and a disciplined spirit share one thing in common – the likelihood of unintentional consequences is greatly reduced. And there is a greater likelihood that it will be used for some good.
How have you seen God work through those that trust Him to rule their spirit?