Like everyone else, I have multiple personality traits. Some I like. Some well….. not so much. There are days/times when I can get into the grumbles. You know what I mean? This is when I find fault with things just because I am on my fault finding patrol. Man, there are days when I just hate that side of my personality. Even when I try with all my strength, I cannot find a way to put that side out of commission permanently. I want to. I really, really want to. The worst part is I sometimes feel like I am alone in this attitude and no one else is, or ever has been, plagued by this character deficit. That can land me in the “shame-on-me” closet pretty fast.
One week my pastor asked me to be the liturgist and read the Scriptures for worship service. I spent time the night before reading the lessons of the day. And it hit me like a 16-ounce can of soup dropped on my little toe. Not only am I not alone, there are examples all over the place of folks who do or did the exact same thing.
In Exodus 16:2-15 the children of Israel are busy making their way out of Pharaoh’s land, through the dessert, and on to where God had instructed them to go. About forty-five days into the journey, the people began to grumble. They wanted more to eat. They wondered why God just didn’t kill them in Egypt if He was planning to off them anyway in the dessert. They let Aaron and Moses have an earful. Forget about their freedom from slavery, they were royally hacked off that they did not eat like they had in Egypt. I wondered, “What is wrong with these people?”
The next Scripture was in the New Testament and was about the people Jesus fed with bread and fish one day on the mountain. The next day they chased Him down and told Him to perform a miracle for them so they would know He was the real deal. Had He not just fed 5,000 plus folks from a mere handful of fish and bread? I shook my head and said out loud, “What is wrong with these people?”
In my scoffing I heard a soft voice say, “The same thing that is wrong with you – humanity. It is often human nature when things are not going your way to slip into the grumbles.”
I spent the next few days thinking about my own inability to extricate myself from the grumbles when they hit. I realized that like the folks above, I can be focused on what I want and unable to see what I have right before me. I can stand, demand and complain because I really do not see miracles all around. I do not see God’s day-to-day caring of me or concern for my well-being.
I also realized another important lesson. It is not uncommon for the grumbler in me to call attention to something I can change. Sometimes it is just my attitude. Sometimes there are things I can do to change my (did I say anyone else’s?) lot.
So, instead of being frustrated with this side of my personality, I decided to acknowledge her as part of being a human. I chose to see that she might even be beneficial – if not allowed to run wild and permanently cloud my outlook. Instead of pushing her aside, I decided to befriend her because she might just shed light on something I need to examine more closely. I started the friendship by naming this side of me. I call her Grumblelina. By making friends with her, I pulled her from the “shame-on-me” closet and gave her a place to be heard. Once heard, she generally goes silent, and I can move forward.
I do not want to say that grumbling and being ungrateful are okay places to stay. To me, they are not. Certainly God’s plan for our life is to live in a healthy space; and living in a state of constant complaint is not what He had in mind. But I do want to acknowledge that being discontent can (if we honor our feelings) lead us to an action that may help remedy a bad situation or even help us cope because we have practiced recognition instead of denial. It gives us opportunity to once again rely on God, turn to and rest in Him, without blaming ourselves or trying to find a way out of discomfort by any means possible. It is part of self-acceptance, I think, to take the whole package of our person.
For now, I am content to acknowledge it when I fall into the grumbles, try to understand why I’m at that place, and then move to a more positive place of action or acceptance. I am affirming and honoring my whole self by taking me as I am – complete with the newly emerged and acknowledged Grumblelina.
Copyright August 2015
Laura L. Padgett
Follow me on Twitter @lauraleepadgett
Check out my first book “Dolores, Like the River” about beauty, purpose and dignity in aging. Westbow Press 2013