Recently two contrasting scriptures have rocked my brain. One from a book I’m reading and one from our pastor encouraging us to read the book of Malachi twice a week during the month we are studying it.
Look at this insight:
Here’s what I see, there are zero casual words in God’s opinion. Definitely when we are talking to each other, but ESPECIALLY when we are talking about Him. As He was leading them miraculously out of slavery, taking care of all their needs on the way to the Promised Land He created just for them, they started fussing about the process. He was furious. I wonder how many of us are living through a tough season that is simply the process to get to the answer He created for our cries? Be careful what you complain about...
It’s honestly terrifying that grumbling and complaining resulted in people being consumed by fire. We see over and over in scripture that God uses fire as the test of what is good and will survive...How many of the words that come out of my mouth will fall in the grumbling and complaining ash pile...How many of my words just make Him mad? How do my words show Him that I'm not at all aware of His goodness because all I choose to see is the negative...The temptation is huge, complaining is socially acceptable small talk. We have to stop thinking of our words as consequence free. I think God made us for so much more than casual! He gave us the unique ability to be deep thinkers, thankful, insightful, generous, compassionate. I wonder how often His anger burns over our waste of those precious resources?
I think God reacts so strongly to the words we speak because of this powerful visual from Proverbs 18:20-21:
I am so thankful that God is really passionate about us understanding how destructive a critical spirit is to our whole being. It nourishes our soul just like the food we choose nourishes our body. We can eat Cheetos and cupcakes for each meal. It’s our right. But over time it will destroy our body because it’s just not healthy for us. Same with our words. We can complain and be negative, but it’s just not healthy for us. And eventually it will destroy us.
On the flip side, look at this amazing visual from MALACHI 3:16-18
He listens to conversations between people who fear the Lord, and HE WRITES THEM DOWN! 😳. I can't even wrap my MIND around that. What the actual world??? Here's my favorite part, it doesn’t say that profound insights or doctrine were written down. It's just conversations that warm His heart. When I was in middle school, I had a Sunday school teacher, Ms. Becky Wood. She had the coolest ideas about the Lord. Once, she told us that she imagines it like Daddy God keeping a baby book. When we are finally with Him, she pictures us sitting in his lap flipping through those tender precious moments--our book full of thoughts and ideas, questions and meaningful conversations that He saw as impressive. I have tons of those moments with my kids. I treasure them. I love to share them when we are snuggled up chatting. THOSE are the moments I think He captures. When we sit and talk out hard ideas from scripture--not all big and bad like we have them figured out, but seeking truth and wisdom with child like faith. Pondering with an openness to learn truth together. I think He loves it when we sit and talk about hard and confusing or even the unknown. Just dreaming together about who He really is. I think He loves to listen to those thoughts. I think He can't wait to remind us. I picture Him crinkling His nose and asking "So....are you glad this part isn't quite what you expected?" Followed by a big head-thrown-back, booming laugh as we explore the truths of eternity, heaven, God, Jesus, The Holy Spirit, the galaxies, the animals we never even knew about, the way it feels to fly or swim without needing air. I think Malachi shows us God, like a parent who captures the special moments forever. Like a parent who can't wait to teach us even more.
In light of that contrast, WHY do we ever waste our words on things that don't matter or do damage?? How can we break this habit? Here we are, in the chasm between the 'thankful holiday' and the 'birth of our savior turned holiday', yet this is when most of us LOSE it. We get overwhelmed. We get caught up in the drumbeat if expectations. We get frustrated and we get broke. The complaining flows freely when we set ourselves up to fail like that.
My friend Nic has more real excuses to complain than anyone else I know. Her story is huge and worth reading, but when her husband was killed, and the army quickly sent her and their baby back to the states from Germany, she was facing a chasm between the life she had envisioned, and the life she was suddenly handed. She had a choice to make. Here is the gratitude trick I learned from her.
Whenever she is struggling, feeling sad, lonely, or complainy, she touches the closest thing to her and speaks gratitude to Jesus for it. It is usually a super weird thing to get thankful about. For example: there’s a pen beside me. Thank you, Lord for this pen. Thank you that I had sweet teachers who worked with me and taught me how to write. Thank you that pens come in so many colors. I love color so much.
Next item: I’m outside on my patio: Lord thank you for the sounds of outside. Thank you that you made not just a bird but a bagillion different kinds of birds. Thank you for the sweet sounds they make. Thank you that they sing for me every morning. Forgive me for not stopping to listen more.
Next item: Lord, thank you for my patio. Thank you for filling it up with people who want to be my friend. Thank you for the laughter that has happened out here. Thank you for the openness and the deep conversations. Thank you for friendship.
Nic swears that by the time you are thankful for the third thing you are almost always in tears. And she is so right. Try it. It’s powerful. Gratitude is ALWAYS the cure for a critical spirit.
Here's one of my intentional attitude adjustments. Lately I've posted pictures of my bathtub. I have realized that it is a pretty good indicator of how I'm doing in the rest of my life. Let's just say it is always too full and always a mess. When life comes at me and I"m not sure where to put the extra, I throw it in my bathtub. It used to be the dryer, but these days, I needed more space, also the dryer is always full of clothes...This week, I caught myself being really mean to myself every time I went in there. I started complaining about it. But I was pondering this blog, so I chose to reject the habit and find some gratitude. Here's what happened:
A few weeks ago, the tub was full of camping gear from Asher's party. That was sorted and rehoused, now it's full of the Christmas decorations we have taken down from the attic, but haven't finished putting up. I decided to stop rolling my eyes every time I had to look at it while I pee, and condemning myself as a chronic hot mess. I decided to view my tub as the place where I give myself the grace to not have it all together. I love that my life is full. It's full because I choose to fill it up and I'm thankful that so many things welcome me into them. I'm thankful for Christmas and the chaos that runs with events, people, gifts, lights, and activities. Yes it's a lot. Yes it is hard to keep up or not get messy. That's why we all need a space where we give ourselves the grace to not have it all together. So Jesus, thank you that I have this tub to contain my extra, and keep it from overflowing.
What's your bathtub? Yours may be really different from mine. My messy tub may feel like torture to you neat freaks... So where is your space to dump your mess when there just isn't the time or resources to deal with them right now? Do you give yourself that kind of grace space? Or do you start complaining? Or yelling (so guilty....) Today I'm thankful for my tub. I'm thankful that people are in and out of my house so I need a place to be in progress. I need a space where I'm not destroyed when there isn't enough time to be finished. I'm thankful for a husband who is cool with my chaos and also doesn't ever expect to be able to soak in the tub.