Monday, December 8, 2008

secret inward grumbling

“Do all things without murmuring.” – Phil 2:14

I was in my favorite sandwich shop this time last year to discover a new employee working the register. And being a creature of habit, I ordered the same thing that I had ordered my previous 52 trips – one turkey sandwich. “NO tomatoes. NO mayonnaise.” I annunciated every syllable of these two sentences. Not wanting to take my chances with the “new guy,” I repeated myself. I spoke so slowly and loudly that it was awkward. And I did this because I hate mayonnaise and I hate tomatoes. And so imagine how thrilled I was, after speeding home, to open a delicious turkey, mayonnaise, and tomato sandwich. Forget the lettuce, the pickles, the onion, the avocado – no traces of these “extras” were within two miles of my sandwich. Just turkey, mayonnaise, and tomato.

Here’s the sad thing – this ruined my day. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t go back. I definitely didn’t eat the tainted thing. I just murmured. I walked around for the rest of the day with a chip on my shoulder. I felt sorry for myself. I secretly grumbled in my heart.

According to Paul, we are to do “all things” without murmuring. The Greek work we translate murmuring (goggusmos) is a pretty loaded word. It’s not only about being upset or about being disappointed. Goggusmos is about harboring a secret complaint; it’s about secretly grumbling in our hearts.

You see, grumbling in any form isn’t good. And the reason grumbling isn’t good is because grumbling rules out the possibility that we properly perceive God. Consider Deut 1:27. “You grumbled and said ‘because the Lord hates us he brought us out of Egypt to destroy us.” Of course, this isn’t true. God brought Israel out of Egypt because He loves Israel, not because He hates them. He did it to save them, not to destroy them. But because the road to salvation is hard – because it involves the desert – the Israelites misunderstood God and they started to grumble. And so grumbling by itself is bad – but “secretly grumbling in our hearts” – that’s even worse. And here’s why.

Because when we grumble inwardly – when we “murmur” – we can still pretend that all is well, that we’re cool and collected. We can lie to ourselves, to others, and to God. We can put on our bright religious mask. We can scrub the outside of the cup but inside be full of ingratitude (Matt 23:25).

Ultimately, it’s not a sin for things to upset us. That’s just what happens when our will is thwarted – when we don’t get our way. And sometimes our anger is silly – people give us a tomato and mayonnaise sandwich. And sometimes our anger is much more serious – whether it is directed towards God or other people. But God gives us models for dealing with our anger in each of these cases. And in no instance is murmuring – secretly grumbling in our hearts – allowed.

FOR TODAY: Monitor your murmuring. Pay attention to what makes you mad and be honest about your emotions. Is there something about God or God’s world that angers or confuses you? It’s better for us to question God (which is called prayer FYI) than it is for us to murmur against God inwardly (Ps 13:1). Has someone else angered you? Go to them privately and speak to them kindly and humbly with the hope of being reconciled (Matt 18:15). Are you upset about something ridiculously trivial? If so, then lighten up. Take a deep breath. See the bigger picture. Jesus is at work making all things new. When this becomes the reality that frames our life, something tells me that "turkey sandwiches" will cease to ruin our day.

1 comment:

Peter Carey said...

Great post! Just what I needed to hear.

Advent Blessings,