I have been angry most of my life. Sometimes my anger has been justified. But more often than not I have been on the wrong side of the often blurry line between righteous indignation and sinful anger. In this article, I will testify to the grace of God in my life. Over the last several months, God has given me real and tangible victory over sinful anger. This is my story, which I share to bring Jesus Christ glory and to edify my brothers and sisters in Christ.
Angry from an Early Age
My earliest memory is not a good one. The memory is of my mom and dad fighting with each other in my grandparents’ yard. Together, they held me between them, literally playing tug-o-war with my little body. The reason for the fight: my parents were gearing up for their first of two divorces, and they were fighting over who would get to have me.
I did not have a bad early childhood. My parents would reunite after their first divorce. Up until the age of ten, my life was that of a typical boy growing up in a small town. I ate, drank, and slept baseball. My dad and I would play catch almost every day. He was the coach of my Little League team, and he was the umpire for the games our team didn’t play.
Dad thought that it was good to get and keep me “fired-up.” He believed it made me a better ball player. So, he would do and say things to make me angry during practices and games. My dad was not a monster. My dad really meant well. And I never doubted my dad’s love for me. But man, he was good at ticking me off.
Sometimes the strategy worked. Other times it meant that a batter was going to get nailed in the ribs with a fast ball. I never intentionally tried to hit a batter, but I would get so angry on the mound that I had no control over where the ball went after it left my hand.
We moved to California when I was ten years old. My dad’s older brother convinced him that the grass was greener in Southern California than it was in Western Pennsylvania. It wasn’t. Moving to California made me mad. My mom and dad divorced for the second time a couple years later. That made me mad, too.
When we moved to California, I went from being one of the popular kids in my school to a nobody from some far-away land. To the kids in my new neighborhood, I talked funny and dressed funny. This made me an easy target for bullies who would chase me home from school every day.
When my dad learned that I was running home from school, he told me, in no uncertain terms, that the next time I ran home he would kick my butt. The next day, as I had done for weeks, as soon as the bell for the end of the school day rang I darted out the classroom and ran across the athletic field. At the far end of the field was a chainlink fence. I crawled under the fence and ran down an alley.
A bunch of kids soon caught up to me. I turned around, growled, and punched the closest kid to me in the face. He fell onto his back holding his jaw, with a look of shock on his face. I growled again and with clenched fists, yelled, “Come on!” I was angry.
I never ran home again, because no one ever chased me again. But that didn’t curb my anger.
In high school I played three sports during my first two years–football, baseball, and wrestling. To get me ready for football games, my dad would have me suit-up in my uniform at home. He then took me to my room where he pushed me around, slapped my helmet, and called me everything and anything he could. He did it until I would fly off into a tearful rage.
By the time I got to the football field, I was blind with anger. I didn’t simply want to beat a blocker off the ball or win the game, I wanted to destroy the poor kid across the line of scrimmage from me.
Before my junior year of high school, I got tired of my dad living vicariously through me. By then I had stopped growing. I was no longer one of the bigger guys on the team. And I knew there was no future for a 5’8″ nose tackle or starting pitcher. So, in a sudden and unexpected move, I quit playing sports. My dad was angry, and so was I.
Angry with God
It was touch-and-go the last couple years of high school. Somehow (I knew nothing of God’s sovereignty, then), I graduated with honors. I had a good job, for an 18-year-old. Just a few months out of high school, I would meet the woman who would one-day be my wife.
On March 11, 1987, I was hired by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Six days later, our first daughter was born–Michelle Marie.
When I left the hospital that evening, Michelle and Mahria were fine. I received a call at about midnight. It was a nurse from the hospital.
“Mr. Miano; we think you should get back here, right away. Your wife is not doing well, and….. we’re not sure your daughter is going to make it.”
“What?!” I thought. “This can’t be happening!”
I looked up at the ceiling and with a clenched fist, yelled, “You’re not taking my baby!”
I was angry with God.
An Angry Deputy Sheriff
The next year-and-a-half was a struggle for my young family.
Michelle survived her first two weeks of life, in the ICU. Mahria would recover. It was almost a week after Michelle’s birth before Mahria saw her daughter, for the first time. Michelle had such an unusual array of medical problems that her medical files were sent to the New England Journal of Medicine, for review. The consensus of the experts who reviewed her case: a collective shrug of the shoulders.
While I spent every waking moment focused on surviving the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Training Academy, Mahria spent every waking moment traveling to and from doctor’s appointments and taking care of our little girl. Mahria and I were exhausted.
I graduated from the Academy. My first assignment was the Pitchess Detention Center-South Facility. South Facility was a medium security jail. It was an open compound, which meant the inmates were housed in military-style barracks, not in cells. Each compound housed three barracks. At any given time, there was one deputy on the compound for every 100 inmates. Each deputy was armed with a key block and a flashlight.
I learned quickly that I had lived a very sheltered life. While I thought I was worldly-wise, I was not ready for life among the criminal element–even in the relatively controlled environs of the county jail. The more experienced deputies with whom I worked–themselves with no more than a year or two of experience–schooled me well about how to function and survive working the county jail.
Like other deputy sheriffs, I soon learned to distrust, despise, and demean anyone and everyone wearing the orange or blue jumpsuit of a Los Angeles County inmate. The color of the person’s skin didn’t matter to me. I adapted to and thrived in an “us vs. them” mentality.
I also learned how to “discipline” inmates.
To allow an inmate to disrespect me was to tell the inmate I am weak and easy prey. To show any kind of weakness was to put myself and my fellow deputies in danger.
If an inmate dared to “cross the line,” he was quickly and firmly disciplined. The unofficial term among deputies for the practice was “court.” I learned how to immobilize, twist, contort, and strike inmates without leaving any marks on their bodies. I hated inmates. I was angry.
Born Again, But Still Angry
On September 4, 1988–after hearing and believing the gospel of Jesus Christ–God caused me to be born again to a living hope.
In less than a day after receiving the mercy, grace, and forgiveness of God, He removed from me any desire to mistreat inmates. The inmates did not become my friends, and there were many instances when circumstances required I use a reasonable amount of force to overcome an inmate’s resistance. However, the inmates were my neighbors and the hatred I had felt for inmates was gone. The desire to trample on the fine line between discipline and abuse was gone. God had taken my heart of stone and given me a heart of flesh.
Although at that point in my life I had much for which to praise God, I still struggled with anger, especially at work. I tried to write it off as righteous indignation. After all, I was taking bad guys off the streets, and most of them were not nice people.
It would be two of my fellow gang investigators, both Christian men whose genuineness of faith I do not question, who would bring to my attention that my anger was beginning to show. It usually manifested in a lack of patience during interrogations. The “bad cop” persona, while never translated in wrong-doing, was a persona made manifest from an angry heart.
The Angry Church Planter
I left full-time duty with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in 1999. I remained with the department as a reserve deputy and chaplain for another eight years. The reason for the career move was to pursue full-time service to the Lord.
My first ministry role was as a church planter. The church that sent my family out to plant a church would soon abandon us, both financially and relationally. Fortunately, a second church who had partnered in the church plant wonderfully picked up the slack. However, 18 months into the life of the church, it was decided by the group of pastors overseeing the church plant to close the doors of the church. They wanted a Rick Warren-esque church, even though they knew (and the denomination funded) my education at The Master’s Seminary. TMS is about as far away from Saddleback Church as China is from Davenport, Iowa.
The meeting to close the doors of the church was held on March 30, 2002. The pastors in the meeting told me I would have support from the denomination to begin a new ministry, through the end of April. Just. One. Month.
I was angry.
By God’s grace, I started Ten-Four Ministries–a ministry that focused on reaching the law enforcement community with the gospel of Jesus Christ. For the next six years, the Lord met every conceivable need and allowed me to bring the gospel to many members of the law enforcement family, around the world.
The Angry Street Preacher
I was introduced to Ray Comfort’s ministry, Living Waters, in 2004. By 2005, I was preaching the gospel in the open-air. By 2006, I was serving as a “phone fisherman” on Way of the Master Radio–hosted by Ray Comfort and Todd Friel. And by 2008, I was on staff with Living Waters. I served as the director of the Ambassadors’ Alliance, which included organizing and supervising the Ambassadors’ Academy. A few years later, I would co-host a live, online program called “On the Box.”
My association with Ray Comfort introduced me to a lot of Christians, most of whom shared Ray’s and my new-found zeal for reaching the lost with the gospel. Having been given the nickname “The Lawman” by Todd Friel, I was able to meld my law enforcement persona with the fiery street preacher persona I was developing.
People liked my booming voice. People liked the way I handled and sometimes crushed hecklers. People liked the way my “cop eyes” stare seemed to burn holes through people. And I liked that they liked me–a lot.
People began to watch my YouTube videos and read my blog. While I had but a small niche in a small niche of American Evangelicalism (biblical evangelism), I began to believe the little bit of hype that surrounded me. As a street preacher, I became known for heralding the gospel like a warrior. Oh, I told everyone how much I loved the lost. I told people that I wasn’t fighting with people. I was fighting for souls. I convinced others, and I convinced myself.
The street cop and the street preacher seemed to be a match made in heaven. It wasn’t.
I was angry.
The Angry Conference Speaker
With a well-stroked ego and well-fed pride, I continued to build my reputation as a street preacher. Soon, the invitations started to come to speak at evangelism conferences. In these settings, I had the opportunity and the forum to preach with fire to the choir. I railed against weak churches, weak Christians, American Evangelicalism, and nomads. Lots of people liked my sermons. Lots of people didn’t like them. And I liked that there were people who didn’t like them.
I was angry.
The Angry Abolitionist
Five years ago, after the release of Ray Comfort’s short and powerful film, “180,” I was convicted of my apathy regarding abortion. So, I set out to do something about it. I found an abortuary about 15 minutes from my home. I learned what days the abortuary killed children. With my “Are You Ready” cross in-tow, I started spending time outside the abortuary.
This is when I began to notice that I was struggling to control my anger.
For the first several months, I went to the abortuary alone. I hated going, but I was compelled to go. The people who came to the abortuary to murder their children were often vile, profane, and blasphemous. They would say the most wicked things in an attempt to upset me. They often succeeded.
It took all of my strength not to respond in kind. While I was often able to bite my tongue, those small victories did not quench the anger in my heart. The people at the abortuary were just as the apostle Paul described: “foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless” (Romans 1:31). And they made me mad.
Sometime later, my sister came to me after joining me at the North Hollywood Metro Station for a morning of evangelism. She told me that she noticed that I sounded angrier than usual while preaching. I confided in her that I thought it had everything to do with my ministry outside the abortuary.
The abortuary was a contributing factor, but it wasn’t the source of the problem. The problem: I was angry.
An Example of My Angry Heart
You have now made your way through 2,400+ words of testimony regarding my struggle with the sin of anger. Now, I would like to show you an example.
The following clip is of a portion of an open-air sermon I preached outside the Planned Parenthood, in Phoenix, AZ. It was the day before Father’s Day.
In 1 Corinthians 11:1, the apostle Paul wrote: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”
I, too, want you to imitate me, as I imitate Christ. However, you should never imitate the behavior you are about to see, for in the following clip I am not imitating Christ. On the contrary, I am bringing a reproach upon His name.
I praise God that it is now hard for me to watch this clip. I praise God because it wasn’t all that long ago I would promote this video to my Christian brethren, believing it was an example of strong preaching.
What you are about to see is not strong preaching. It is angry preaching. It is unloving preaching. It is arrogant preaching. It is sinful preaching. It is not to be imitated. Christian, whether or not you are an open-air preacher, flee from this kind of behavior. Flee from it; hate it; if need be, repent of it.
I am without excuse.
Nothing you have read thus far should be interpreted as excuse-making. It is merely testimony–plain and simple. Nothing excuses sinning against God. I’m sorrowful to think how much of the last 13 years of my open-air/street ministry will burn up in God’s purifying fire. I am confident that I presently have far fewer crowns to lay at my Master’s feet than I once thought.
I’m heartbroken to think of how many Christians I possibly have persuaded to behave as I did in the above clip. If you are such a person, if my sinful anger has in anyway encouraged you to imitate this behavior, please forgive me. Forgive me, and repent if you have similarly behaved.
God Has Not Allowed Me to Stay Angry
I have publicly confessed sin several times in the past. Often, the confession ends with a commitment on my part to do better.
I thank God that this public confession doesn’t simply end with a hoped-for sanctification. Rather, this testimony ends with a declaration of FREEDOM in Christ.
Oh, I am not so foolish as to think anger is nothing but a thing of my past. I am not so foolish as to let my guard down, even for a moment. Sin is always crouching at the door (Genesis 4:7). But I can testify that God has given me real victory over the sin of anger, particularly in the area of evangelism.
This is how it happened.
One Day Outside an Abortuary
The beginning of real sanctification began in November 2015. It was then that Mahria and I made our first trip to Grace Fellowship Church, in Davenport, IA. During one morning, Mahria and I spent time with Pastor Mike and members of the GFC family, outside the Emma Goldman abortuary.
As I preached to those inside the abortuary–those who were making a concerted effort to murder children–I could feel the anger welling up inside me. When I finished preaching, I began to weep. Pastor Mike came over and put his arm around my shoulder.
“I’m so angry.” It was all I could say.
“I know.” Pastor Mike replied.
There was no avoiding it, now. It was out in the open. I admitted to what I had known for a long time. I was angry.
In June of 2016, I decided to move my family to Davenport, IA, to join the Grace Fellowship Church family. Within a day of making that decision, a man who was once a close friend began a relentless and vicious attack against me and Pastor Mike Reid.
Many people–some who already hated me and saw it as an opportunity to join an attack against me, and others who were close and trusted friends–began to believe the lies this man was telling.
I was angry. I wanted to defend myself. I wanted to retaliate. It was Pastor Mike Reid and Elder Nick Rolland who helped me not to respond in kind.
Grace Fellowship Church
In addition to allowing me to confess my sin and weather a prolonged and baseless attack, God allowed me to join Grace Fellowship Church.
Grace Fellowship is far from a perfect church. After all, I’m a member. Yet, the Lord has used this church family to bring about many biblical changes in my life. I’ve learned how to be hospitable and how to receive hospitality. The Lord has taught me what humility looks like through our church’s Sunday evening time of public confession. The Lord has humbled me in how I come to the Lord’s table.
The elders of the church have provided me with accountability in ministry and in many areas of my life. Knowing my struggle with anger, they regularly pray for me, provide me with counsel, and feed me the Word of God. Experiencing direct supervision in ministry, coupled with the before-mentioned spiritual fruit of Grace Fellowship Church, with the necessary help of the Holy Spirit (without which no real repentance and sanctification is possible), I have more tools and more support to combat my sin.
With all glory, praise, honor, thanks, and credit going to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, I can testify that I am not the angry evangelist I once was.
Over the last several months, I have experienced more joy and peace on the streets and outside of abortuaries than I have ever previously experienced. As a result, I have been able to feel, express, and show more love to the lost than at any other time in ministry.
Before moving to Grace Fellowship Church and Davenport, IA, I often came off the streets or from the abortuary exhausted. I had convinced myself the fatigue was the result of good, hard-fought fights for lives and souls. In reality, I was exhausted, I was fatigued from carrying the heavy burden of sinful anger. I was tired from being mad, but I wasn’t tired of being mad.
Now that the Lord has brought me to the knowledge, admission, and repentance of my sin, I am spending more time on the streets. I am engaging more people in gospel conversations. Now, I am standing outside abortuaries up to three days each week. There was a time when I stopped engaging in abortuary ministry because I knew I was going to get angry.
I used to get mad at people when I engaged in cross-walking. I got angry when they drove by, flipped me off, or mocked me in some other way. I used to shout Bible truths to them with anger in my heart, not with hope for their souls. Today, I can’t wait to stand on a street corner and face whatever momentary, light afflictions by way of persecution the Lord may bring my way. A middle finger now receives a sincere smile and a wave, in reply.
As previously stated, I know my fight against sinful anger isn’t over. This sin can unexpectedly rear its ugly head at any time. I have to remain diligent in prayer, in Scripture, and in accountability to my church family.
A Testimony of My Changed Heart
An incident occurred the other day outside the Emma Goldman abortury, in Iowa City.
While standing outside the abortuary holding a sign that read “We Will Adopt Your Baby,” a man made his way down the sidewalk, on the opposite side of the street. He guided a bicycle down the street. The bicycle was packed with what appeared to his personal belongings. The man appeared to be homeless.
The man looked in my direction.
“How are you, sir?” I asked as I waved to the man.
The man erupted into a rage. With his bike in tow, he made his way across the street. And this is what happened….
I submit the above video as testimony regarding what the Lord has accomplished in my heart and in my life. He has changed my heart; He has changed my life. At no point was I angry with the man who verbally and physically assaulted me.
I am thankful beyond words to the Lord, for the freedom from sinful anger He has given me. The joy of the Lord really is my strength (Nehemiah 8:10)! To Him be the glory!
I Must be Kind to Everyone
Scripture has been very important to me during the journey away from sinful anger. A passage of particular importance has been 2 Timothy 2:24-26.
“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.”
One Wednesday evening as our church family gathered for prayer, I flipped through the Bible, trying to find an appropriate passage from which to pray. (Praying the Bible, by Donald Whitney, is a very helpful book on the topic of praying Scripture) I came upon 2 Timothy and read the above passage. “The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone.”
God could not have made Himself more clear to me. I must be kind to everyone. Everyone. I must patiently endure evil–all kinds of evil. I must correct every opponent with gentleness. After all, don’t I want the Lord to grant every human being with whom I have contact “repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth?” Don’t I want God to grant repentance to every human being I meet–repentance that will bring them to their senses–repentance that will give the only way of escape from the snare of the devil–repentance leading to faith in Jesus Christ the Lord for their salvation?
Although asked rhetorically, the questions demand answers. Yes. Yes.
I don’t love anyone to whom I am unkind. There is no way around it.
Kindness may be shown in a gentle or soft word that turns away wrath (Proverbs 15:1). Kindness may also be shown with a stern warning (Hebrews 12:25). While a lack of kindness can be reflected in one’s tone of voice, this is not always the case. Whether soft or stern, the heart behind the words must be a heart filled with kindness to and love for the one to whom the words are spoken.
I’m not fully sanctified in any area of my life. I look forward to heaven, where and when I will never sin again. Until then I will continue to pray for and to seek the Lord’s help. I want to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29).