As Lent begins today, I think about the things I have sacrificed during previous Lenten seasons. The two things I have most often surrendered have been Diet Coke and coffee. Not exactly huge sacrifices but they are enough a part of my life that their absence has been noticed (by me any way).
This year I am giving up something different – complaining. My friend and colleague Kimberly Pope-Seiberling wrote a great piece on the power of giving up complaining in a church (you can read it here. You can also learn about the complaint-free world concept at this website. By the way I did order the bracelets but they haven’t yet arrived.)
Complaining is not like chocolate or coffee or Diet Coke. Or is it? I am making the commitment because I realize that I am a complainer who is surrounded by and feeds other complainers. It is a pandemic in the circles in which I move. And like coffee and Diet Coke and many other things I do take pleasure, comfort, even joy (but perversely so) in it. It soothes my soul. It calms my mind. It keeps me from reflecting on uncomfortable truths.
I’ve realized that when I complain, I avoid dealing with me – my soul, my heart, my mind, my emotions, my responsibilities, my sin. It is someone else’s fault, failure, irresponsibility, incompetence, etc. It is not me. The more I complain, the more I avoid dealing with me.
So this Lent I am going to try to deal with me, at least a bit. In Lent I remember Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem and the cross. It was difficult, painful, and ended in his death. But it did not end there. On the other side was life. I know and trust all of these things are true of my journey toward a complaint-free life. I doubt this will be easy. Or failure-free. But worth taking.