The Wrath of Dad

December 22, 2021 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Jane Thornton –

My father’s wrath frightened my siblings and me. We’d hear friends boast about smart aleck retorts made to their dads and shudder at the very thought. Whether by nature or Marine Corps indoctrination, he developed an authoritative style that intimidated the socks off our feet. His tour of duty as a drill instructor perfected his ability to bark an order with justified expectation of immediate obedience. He didn’t require salutes, but “yes, sir” better be the only verbal response he heard.

One evening, most of our family had been away from the house attending some function now relegated to obscurity by the events that followed. Wade, my youngest sibling, in his teens at the time, remained at home. When five of us trooped through the door loudly rehashing some fine point of contention, we interrupted Wade’s TV program. As Daddy summarized his argument, Wade growled with teenage ire, “Shut up!”

Mark, Nancy, and I froze. Wade’s audacity stunned us. We’d heard of siblings who intentionally got each other in trouble, but none of us would throw a brother or sister onto Dad’s lack of mercy.

I held my breath. Anticipation of the coming furor stiffened my bones.

Daddy kept talking.

I looked at Nan. Had I misheard? She was gazing in disbelief at our father. We all shared furtive glances, waiting for the coming disaster.

Daddy wrapped up, and threw a mild scowl toward the couch. “By the way, Wade, don’t ever tell me to shut up again.” Up the stairs he went.

Our chins dropped. By the way? Our world tilted off kilter. On the heels of relief that our brother still lived, resentment crowded into our collective brains. That’s all?

Almost thirty years later, we still can’t let go of our incomprehension, and we never let Wade forget it either.

Have we lost our incredulity at God’s mercy toward us? I’ve been reading Francine Rivers’ rendition of the Exodus in The Priest, the story of Aaron helping Moses lead the Israelites. God’s wrath is fearsome. His people stir the Lord’s fury and suffer for it.

My father never hurt me. I never doubted his love. Yet, his anger could make me cringe.

God’s purity and jealousy led Him to strike some of his beloved but rebellious children with leprosy and death. His awesome Presence caused the Israelites to tremble and run in fear. “On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning with a thick cloud over the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled…The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently, and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder… Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning” (Exodus 19:16,18 and 20:20 NIV).

God’s wrath didn’t disappear with the birth of His Son. Although Jesus took God’s anger upon Himself, sin is still unacceptable. James is speaking to Christians when he says, “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God?” (James 4:4a NIV).

Let us keep in mind that the God who adores us is a vast and fearsome Being, not to be taken lightly or for granted.

Comment prompt: How do you balance God’s mercy and wrath?

About Jane Thornton

Jane Thornton, English teacher, wife, and mom of two almost grown children, strives to break free of the automatic boring label attached to those roles. Her two suspense novels eagerly await a willing publisher, and her articles search for inspiration in the humor and tears of life.
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3 Responses to “The Wrath of Dad”
  1. Lee Carver says:

    I often feel the same incredulity that God lets people get away with horrendous sins. Why doesn’t lightening zap from the sky and fry them to the ground? In Acts 5:1-11, Ananias and Sapphira were stricken dead for lying about how much they had given to the fellowship. How can people kill and torture and yet live? But God holds Christians to a different standard. His discipline is tempered with mercy, and his love is everlasting. He trains us like a loving parent. All of humanity is given free will. Those who appear to “get away” with evil have another existence in which to pay.
    BTW, our children were afraid of their father’s “uni-brow” which gathered in a storm of bushy hair over his aviator’s glasses. They didn’t want to see Daddy angry.

    • Dan Sides says:

      Why doesn’t The Almighty zap the sinner? Well, because if He did we’d all be zapped! Our best efforts are dirty feminine hygiene (sorry, Isaiah’s words not mine, Isaiah 64:6) and crap (again, Paul, not me, Phillipians 3:8 (NIV says “garbage” but Greek says “”human waste”)). Praise God we are unzapped!!!

  2. Julie Marx says:

    First, I love your dad, Jane.
    I tilt toward the tough side of love, so I have to work at being merciful. If my kids were honest, I easily doled out mercy. If they lied, my wrath prevailed. Actually, I now have to go ask their perspective.

    As for myself, I’m one to run to the Father when I’ve sinned. I think it’s goes back to the belief in honesty. “I messed up royally. Fix me.” Except when my stubbornness sneaks interferes.

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