Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Complaining Grace

Grace: "The free and unmerited favor of God as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings."

A week ago I read a devotional from Elisabeth Elliott who had taken on a great challenge. She, following the example of a friend, had committed to NOT COMPLAINING for 14 days.
(long pause)
My. My.
I pondered this inspirational and holy ideal. I pondered complaints.

There IS that scripture over in Phillipians that always makes me squirm.
"Do everything without complaining or arguing..."
True Confession...when I read this verse I think.."EVERYTHING? Really?!?!?!"
(Hmmmm...I must make God so HAPPY sometimes.)

I began to pay attention. To the complaints that I commonly utter. The statements. The grumbles. The huffs. (Oh man! Surely those don't count?!?!)
It seems...this complaining a pretty large chunk of my coversational repetoire.
What's up with that?
I typed up a commitment statement for a 14 day fast from complaints.

And then...I chickened out. Totally. I was sure that removing the complaints would be...impossible. Or, at the very least...extremely difficult.

Here are the circumstances that immediately followed the chickening out:
*our two year old had a mysterious random fever that kept us awake for many nights on end;
* I suffered from a doozy of a migraine that landed me in bed for a whole day;
*I had a bundt cake disaster that ruined a special birthday surprise for a friend;
*the two youngest Cashes were afflicted with the WCIAAM (whining, crying, "It's all about me!") virus;
*I was run off the road three times by a huge bus on a very narrow passage in Ft Portal town;
* and a sudden discovery of completely bone dry,empty water tanks, that upon examination, received a "can't be fixed for a few months" diagnosis.

At every painful moment...that verse played LOUDLY in my head..."Do EVERYTHING without complaining...."

And I submissively replied, "REALLY?!?!"

Complaints were popping up everywhere. My speech. My thoughts. My prayers.

I recalled my thwarted commitment with a furtive glance. And a twinge of guilt. Can I live in this third world full of inconsistencies and irritating surprises and...not complain?

Here is what happened...

*Our two year old benefitted tremendously from much alone time with Mom;
*I became very aware of how INCREDIBLE my head feels...I never think about that until the days after a migraine when the pain and fog have disappeared;
*my generous friend delighted in my crumbly cake and loved me anyway;
*kids are still whining...but maybe if I stick with this committment...they'll quit modeling MY complaining...
*that Kalita bus full of people got prayed for alot
* our water pipes were repaired in record time (two hours!). Our tanks are filled again.

Now, most of those are good things. Undeserved things.

And with a sheepish duck of the head and deeply guttural sigh I realize--

Grace. Pure and simple.

How does He do this?! So often. For me. In these minute aspects of my vapor of a life.

His Goodness...amidst all my...ummm...not-so-goodness.

(very long pause)

So considering all the complaint uttering and grace outpouring going on around here... I would like to ammend my previous commitment with a repentant heart and deep desire to redirect this complaining energy:

"I, Complainer Extroidainaire, do hearby, kneel before my Maker and ask for Your Holy Spirit to go to work on me. In this dark corner...where I complain. I ask, that You, with unbelievable patience and consistency will remove my tendency to complain. And replace it with a tendency to bless. To pray for. To forgive. To give thanks.

I openly acknowledge the enormity of Your task. And apologize sincerely for my obstinance and inability to... well...get this right.

Forgive me already...and help me be willing to offer the same..."

Amazing Grace. I need it every day.


Diane said...

Oh, Cheryl, have you ever stepped on all our toes! I think of Jesus' words, "Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." May God bless you with an extra measure of His Spirit today. With love, Diane

Lynn said...

Yo daddy needed that one today. With every lesson I teach the necessity of love, acceptance and forgiveness "like Jesus did" and inwardly complain about the ones who are supposed to be my "spiritual overseers" and their inability to get it. Maybe they will when I do. Thanks for sharing your struggles. I sure do love you girl.

Kim Hodges said...

Wow! You're so brave! What an example you are to us all. Praying for strength and an abundance of blessings so that it might not be completely impossible. :)

KNewberg said...

Cheryl, what powerful words! I liked (or maybe needed) that so much that I copied it and sent it to a bunch of people. Of course, they probably don't struggle with this like we do! Bless you for your willingness to share your struggles with us so that we all may grow in our walk of faith. Praise God for giving you such an amazing ability to put your thoughts into words. Love you!

Lori Ann said...

uh...hmmm. thanks. i needed that.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing. I can't begin to explain how encouraging that was for me in this day at this exact moment.
Bless you Sister-

Sanna said...

I used to have this verse on my fridge for my children, not realizing I needed it, too. A couple of years ago I "discovered" it for myself and have been endeavoring to not complain, with varying results, ever since. Thanks for the reminder!

heather said...

Cheryl - we haven't met personally (I was is Jeff's AIM class), but I stop by regularly because our God grows me so much through what you share! ( Thanks for being a missionary over here too!)
I didn't post anything when I first read this... but day after day since you posted this He has challenged me with these words.
Thank you for your pursuit of Him that runs to the marrow in you.... and thanks for taking many of us personally on the journey with you in areas we might not have otherwise given over to Him this week.
I praise Him for your life!

Randy & Kelly Vaughn said...

These are such great thoughts!! I keep coming back every day looking for more!! I am so excited to have found your blog. Even though we have never met I feel such a sweet connection to you as a missionary wife and mama! Thank you for your encouraging comments on my blog!Blessings on your day!

Kelly Vaughn

Sandi said...


This was a challenging, heartfelt post. I had already been convicted by God this week about my own complaining and about finding contentment in every situation -- knowing that I can do ALL things through Him who gives me strength. Thank you for fleshing this out for me. Sometimes we learn lessons kicking and screaming (or complaining!). :) Thank you.