I feel lonely and trapped. I know many stay-at-home moms experience these feelings from time to time, but today I feel more justified in these feelings than usual. I am literally trapped. My car got stuck in the driveway as I was trying to escape these monotonous four walls this morning. As if I wasn’t feeling frazzled enough trying to get the three of us ready and tidy the house before we walked out the door. I was already wondering, as I usually do during the crunch to get in the car, “Is it even worth the effort to leave the house?” After getting the kids belted in, I put the car in reverse. I didn’t get more than 3 feet before a snow bank entrapped my wheel. Tried as I might to rock the car, it wouldn’t budge. So I shoveled and shoveled and shoveled some more. Rocked some. Pushed some. Shoveled more. Rocked more. All of this interspersed by screams of frustration and cries from my children. At one point my three year-old cried, “Mommy! I want some men to come help us!!” Me too, kiddo, me too.
Eventually, I gave up and resigned myself to another day indoors, alone with the children. On a day like this I would typically turn on the T.V. to feel somehow connected to the outside world, but we cancelled our cable last week, leaving me just a little more secluded, if only psychologically. Maybe my husband would come home for lunch? But when I called to ask, he said, “Nope. See ya later.” Really? Today’s the day he’s going to be a man of few words?
Feeling defeated, I started to cry while making my son’s grilled cheese sandwich. He would probably just complain about it anyway. Cabin fever has gotten the better of him, as well, his whines escalating as the winter drags on. It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard to my ears and to my spirit. He can be so ungrateful. No wonder God got frustrated with the grumbling Israelites in the desert! As I was self-righteously identifying with God’s distaste for complaining, I realized that all I could think about this morning was the cleverly worded negativity I would spew via facebook status updates. Aha, this was a lesson for me!
Might it be that my complaints are like fingernails on a chalkboard to the Lord? I don’t mean to suggest that we can’t bring our daily struggles before Him. He longs to hear what’s on our hearts. In fact, we are implored to pour out our hearts to Him, in Psalm 62:8. However, it’s not so much what we say, it’s how we say it. Our tone makes all the difference.
Our tone should be one of gratitude. In Philippians 4:6, we are told, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” We can bring our requests to God in every situation, but we should remember to do it with a grateful heart. When my child incessantly complains, I can’t help but feel a little hurt that he forgets all of the good things I have given him and concentrates on fleeting inconveniences. How much more of an affront is it to the Lord when I forget the innumerable blessings he has given me and whine about the trivial inconveniences of my day?
The antidote for a spirit of complaining is cultivating a spirit of thankfulness. Gratitude, after all, is the opposite of grumbling. There’s an old familiar adage that encapsulates this idea perfectly : I cried because I had no shoes, until I saw a man who had no feet. Instead of complaining about my car being stuck in the snow, may I be grateful that I have a car to get stuck in the snow. Instead of grumbling about the long winter, may I be grateful for a warm home where I can ride it out. Instead of being irritated by my children’s whines, may I be grateful that I have tiny voices to hear and tiny bodies to cuddle. While the frustrations and I emotions we face on a daily basis are a legitimate part of the human experience, may we learn to temper them with a fresh perspective and spirit of gratitude.