Those who know Jay Licata would be surprised to learn that before he was saved – before he decided to follow Jesus – he didn’t manage anger well. In fact, he describes his anger as explosive. He says he liked to break things. Afterwards, he would feel foolish and guilty. But that didn’t stop him the next time. He would think, “I’m better than this,” but it wasn’t until he began to connect with the One who is “better than this” that he began to see a change.
Jay accepted Christ as his Savior and Lord in June of 1997, and two things happened shortly after decision – his marriage began to fall apart, and he began to grow in leaps and bounds in the area of self-control. Why? Because he knew that apart from God, he would not do well navigating through this overwhelming trial. He leaned heavily into his new relationship with Jesus. On the many occasions that he was tempted to lose control, Jay turned to God, and God always showed up. He also began to see that he wasn’t in control, and he didn’t have to be, because God is. He was learning what it was like to release retaliation to God.
Now, after 23 years of walking with the Lord, Jay estimates that 95% of the anger he used to experience is gone. And now, the anger that does rise-up inside of him is most often short-lived and not destructive.
Jay currently finds himself in another difficult season. He says, “In a nutshell: my life, at work and personally, week after week, continues to get more and more challenging, stressful, and frustrating. I don’t always respond to agitators with love and gifts, but when I feel anger or frustration start to well up inside of me, I immediately start to Praise God! For His Salvation, His Creation, for His Unconditional Love! This prevents me from saying things out of my flesh that would destroy my testimony. My go to verse in this season has been Romans 8:37: ‘Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.’ First, I remind myself that I am more than a conqueror and am not losing the battle because God loves me! Second, I can ‘trade’ my temporary world anger and frustration for God’s eternal love for me! Through this transaction, my heavenly focus, joy, and peace are restored! Because of this restoration, I am motivated to spend more and more time in the Word and in Prayer to get stronger with each passing day!”
Another thing that Jay does in the moment is to pray for the person who is the catalyst for his anger. And he doesn’t just pray, “Bless so and so,” the Holy Spirit will direct him to pray specifically for the person’s well-being, for their family, their needs, and more. He is amazed at the direction that God will give him
The Holy Spirit's self-control and other fruit of the Spirit is so evident in Jay's life, because he consistently connects with the Vine, the One whose qualities he wants to reflect. As he describes how he connects, one can tell that Jay genuinely loves that special time each day. He says that many people just spend a few minutes on their way to work talking to God, and that’s great, but he adds that a marriage wouldn’t thrive if the only communication took place during a commute. He says, “It’s the same with a relationship with God. There needs to be time for meaningful connection.”
Jay begins his connection with God very early each day. He gets up at 3:50 am, and he immediately starts thanking God for everything he first lays eyes on – his bed, his walls, his toothbrush…!
Next, Jay spends about an hour in God’s Word. Even when he supplements that reading with a devotional, he first takes his time with each sentence of Scripture until he soaks it in. His Chromebook or phone is close at hand so that if there is a word or a concept that he’d like to gain more insight on, he’ll be able to use some online resources.
Still leaving his Bible open, Jay then prays for approximately a half hour. But Jay also communes with God throughout the day. He says, “Prayer is not a part of Christianity; it is Christianity.” (Not surprisingly, Jay, a Deacon at Ventura Missionary, is also the leader of our Prayer Team.) At other times during the day and evening, the Holy Spirit will prompt Jay to re-read what he read in the morning or take in another passage as God leads.
The fruit of self-control may be a misnomer, for in reality, it is a manifestation of submitting to God’s control through communing with His Spirit. The more you hang out with God, the more you respond with His character to the pressures and frustrations and struggles of life. Even someone with an explosive anger issue can be transformed and begin to radiate love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Just look at what happened to Jay.