Friday, January 25, 2013
A Moratorium on Complaining about Abundance: Reversing I Thess. 5:18
"Ugh. What am I going to make for dinner? I have to go to the grocery store. I hate going to the grocery store."
Often, like many American women I am at the grocery, under fluorescent lights, listening to canned music, dodging mothers with screaming babies and older people in scooters. As if all that isn't enough I am going to have to stand in a lengthy line and be subjected to countless magazine covers telling me about the latest celebrity divorce, asking me how my sex life is, and making me wonder what Kanye and Kim are going to name that baby. I mean, it is the burning question of 2013. I can't tell you how much sleep I've lost...
My life is so hard.
You know, compared to the majority of women on the planet who don't have enough to feed their families and or access to luxuries like clean water.
As I thought about my attitude I felt ashamed of myself. I entered the grocery on my most recent visit and thanked God for the piles of fresh fruits and vegetables. I took a moment to marvel over the variety of cheeses, breads (already baked, mind you), and grains available. My attitude of gratitude continued as I felt grateful for my vehicle (I wasn't carrying my supplies home on foot) instead of grumbling about the price of gas as I stopped on my way home to fill up.
I thought just how often we complain about our abundance. We complain about there being no room in the fridge. We grumble that there is so much laundry or that our closets are too full. We complain about our electric and water bills or the wait at the doctor's office.
We have a culture of complaint.
Then yesterday, the day after I'd been thinking about this, my son had an accident. A minor one, not his fault, and he wasn't hurt. Any parent is immediately and profoundly grateful that a child isn't hurt in such a situation but this time I thought of all the other things there were to be thankful for: Police officers that arrived on the scene to make a report and help, insurance (including a state law that requires all drivers to carry it), the fact that our family owns more than one car so I was able to get to where he was and then take him where he needed to go, seat belt laws-- without which he might not have been in the habit of wearing one.
I Thessalonians 5:18 reminds us to give thanks in all things. We tend to think the verse is admonishing us to give thanks when life is hard and things aren't going our way. It's generally taught that way. The basic sermon attached to this verse is sort of: life is hard but be thankful anyway. Read in context there is nothing to imply negative circumstances were the focus. I'm not so sure Paul wasn't also reminding us to give thanks in our abundance, our happy moments, those wonderful ordinary days when nothing bad happens.
We might not be able to stop complaining completely, I know I won't. But I'm going to try a new trick which is match every complaint with something about the issue I can be thankful for, making a game out of it.
Anyone want to play along?