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Today, I'm happy. The birds are chirping, the sun is shining, everything is going my way. Oh, and my deck is sealed.

Just a few weeks ago, you'd have thought my world had turned upside down. Cracks appeared in my carefully composed facade; I became Krakatoa, ready to erupt. Woe to anyone in my vicinity!

Why this Hyde to my usual Jekyll? I hadn't argued with my husband. I hadn't suffered an unexpected betrayal or insensitive slight or serious setback. No, I'm embarrassed to admit, I'd simply become furious with the company contracted to power wash and seal our deck.

Although the workers had completed the first step of the process and promised to finish the job in a timely manner, three weeks later they still hadn't returned for the final step. So stuck in this weird waiting limbo, patio furniture and gas grill strewn around our yard to keep the cedar boards bare, we were unable to sit out and grill, entertain, or enjoy our morning coffee. With each passing day of good weather—and no sign of the sealers—my temperature boiled.

Calling the company only brought broken promises. Praying and journaling didn't ease my frustration. And complaining repeatedly to my husband didn't diffuse it either. When I'd ask him if I should call still one more time, he'd reply, "You'll only get more worked up. Let's just wait a little longer." And then I'd become angry with him!

Somewhere, somehow in this emotional mess, God did show up. He reminded me of the Midwestern families who'd recently lost homes and livelihoods to flooded rivers. And I'm upset about our deck? I thought guiltily. I should be thankful to have a deck!

Yet sadly, this Holy-Spirit-inspired perspective evaporated whenever I looked out my sliding glass door. I began devising retribution strategies: poison pen letters to the Better Business Bureau, icy complaints on Angie's List, negative word of mouth to all my neighbors.

One morning, I was so irked I logged on to my e-mail account, typed in my parents' address, and composed a diatribe against the company. Before I hit "send," I added a postscript: "Sorry, Mom and Dad, I just had to vent."

Why couldn't I let this silly thing go?

I'd blown the whole affair out of proportion; I needed to step outside my anger to pinpoint the real reasons behind it. And the truth wasn't pretty. In some twisted way, I liked my anger. It felt justifiable, because someone had taken advantage of me. Anger offered me the illusion of power in a situation where I felt powerless.

Beyond those reasons, however, other issues had been simmering under the surface. A recent unrelated rash of frustrations and disappointed expectations had left me feeling helpless and out of control. These funky emotions had been brewing for a while; the deck snafu topped off the nasty stew.

My reactions of a few weeks ago give me pause. I tend to equate getting angry with not being nice. And I certainly want to avoid giving the impression I'm an angry person. No, I'm the nice one. But am I?

As a believer, I struggle with the concept of seeking justice versus turning the other cheek. I wonder when and where righteous wrath becomes sinful anger.

When I'm honest with myself, I realize most of my anger springs from thwarted plans and frustrated agendas … when the sun isn't shining, the birds aren't chirping, and everything isn't going my way. That reaction is more like self-centeredness than like biblical anger.

So with God's grace, I'm working on this anger thing. Because heaven knows I let way too many suns go down on my frustration over cedar boards and preservative!

How do you react when your agenda gets sidetracked or someone takes advantage of you? How do you distinguish righteous wrath from sinful anger?

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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