I didn’t grow up in a church that really recognized or ritualized lent. Every year I come dangerously close to telling several people that they, “have a little something on their forehead” before I realize that it is Ash Wednesday. But this year, on the heels of a precious Advent season in which I learned so much, I am determined to be intentional during lent. And so it has begun, this season of repentance and rememberance. Most observers will tell you that they are giving something up for lent as a way to walk in sacrifice and fasting. Traditionally you would use the absence of whatever it is to remember Jesus and his sacrifice. So, in this new commitment to lent, I began praying about what it would be that I would give up. Would it be sweets, carbs, wine, facebook? Do you know what the Holy Spirit said to me? “Give up complaining.” Ouch.
This is how the conversation went:
Really? Am I a complainer, Lord?
“Do everything without complaining and arguing.” (Phil. 2:14)
Okay, but I don’t really complain out loud very often. I mean, my friends wouldn’t say I was a complainer.
“For as he (she) thinks within himself, so he is.” (Prov. 23:4)
There is just so much to do, and I don’t mean to complain, but sometimes I am so tired, and there are so many of them depending on me for so much.
“Serve the Lord with gladness.” (Psalms 100:2)
Okay, but does anyone even see me, or serve me, or encourage me?
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
Fine, Lord. Complaining it is. I will give up complaining up for lent, both outward complaining and inward grumbling. This should be a breeze….
Sometimes my children come and say the most precious things to me. Things like, “Why can’t we ever do anything fun? Why do you always make gross stuff to eat? I have nothing to do/wear/play with/read. Why do I have to do homework/feed the animals/help my brothers/sisters/ clean my room/ put away all these toys?” Even the occasional, “I hate my life. I wish I lived with _____.” Awesome. In those moments I look around at their rooms filled with toys and crafts, their closets filled with clothes, the garage stacked with bikes, balls, tees, bats, these 7 acres complete with critters, a pool and giant trampoline and think, are they serious? I usually respond with a very mature and grace-filled approach to training a child in the way they should go like THROTTLING THEIR LITTLE, UNGRATEFUL NECKS!!!
And then I think, this is exactly what I do with God. “Do I really have to take care of all these blessings you have given me? Do I really have to help all these kids who are healthy and beautiful and I had no problem conceiving? Do I really have to cook all this food that I can easily drive up the road and buy with the money you have provided? Do I really have to wash all these clothes that fill our closets?” You get the picture. And I imagine my heavenly Father saying, “Look at all this salvation/grace/goodness/blessing/community I have lavished upon you. Are you really complaining?” I’m so thankful He is a better parent than I am and doesn’t throttle MY ungrateful little neck.
Here is the truth. I have nothing to complain about.
I am bearing my blessings as burdens. Shame on me. Do I have prayer requests and concerns for my husband, children, and friends? Of course. Am I trying daily to hear from the Lord and walk in His way? Yes. Are things perfect? Obviously not. My kids get sick, my hubby gets stressed at work, things break, we have to put a dog down, I miss my mom, schedules get crazy. But complaints they are not. It’s a habit really, isn’t it? The complaining? It is like our default reaction to so much. I am learning that the complaining comes when I worship the god of my own agenda and expectations. When the reality of a day, a conversation, an event, a relationship is different than how I planned it or expected it to go I react in my flesh. my default is complaining. If not out loud then within my own head and heart.
So I will lay down the bad habit of complaining for lent. I will measure my words and search my ungrateful little heart. I will celebrate my blessings as blessings and not bear them as burdens. I will pick up encouragement and building others up according to their needs and not think so much about my own. Don’t they say it takes about 21 days to break a bad habit and form a new one? We have 40 days of lent to do this. Will you jump on the bandwagon of encouragement and leave complaining in the dust? Let us lay it down for lent.