Right, listen. Thing is, no, listen… I used to be a busy busy writer. It’s true. You wouldn’t think so if you’d been sitting on the beach with me for two hours this morning, but I was. I was extremely busy once upon a time.
I know I’ve been moaning on and off for the last five years about not having anything to do… and I know I’ve complained about missing exciting (fast) long drives in the middle of the night to filming on the other side of the country (always arriving, strangely, in time for a lovely breakfast on set) … and I’ve railed against how rarely friends make the trek over here….. and I’ve been whingeing on about how out of touch I am with the broadcast industry which is eons away in another culture (called the 21st century) … and I know I’ve felt unused and irrelevant and all that stuff for 5 years… and yes, I’ve done a bit of complaining about my brain dying from lack of use…. but listen…. my little old radio play is due to be recorded in a couple of weeks and I’ve just looked at the hotel that’s been booked for me…. it’s five flipping hours drive away! And it’s about an hour from the studio! And there’s a blanketty- blank cricket match on that day so traffic will be hell! And …. and… and…. it’s not as if Radio pays a fortune… it’s peanuts……
Man, I’m so good at discontent!
But of course that’s all nonsense. A mad woman’s ramblings. I’m delighted to be going to the recording and so what if it’s in Greenwich? If it was in Timbuktoo I’d go there, too. But complaining is delicious.
Complaining really is delicious. If there’s something we disagree with, some perceived slight against ourselves and our interests, oh boy, we like to complain. And complaining isn’t a great thing to do, it’s not a Godly thing to do. We’re told not to complain, not to grumble. Grumbling taints the air around the complainer so that others breathe it in and get poisoned. I should know, I have both been the poisoner and the poisoned in my time.
You know my fave verse ? Well, one of them (the list grows and grows). ‘Look to the Rock from which you were cut’. If I look to my rock, Jesus, I see no complaints at all. None. And He really did have stuff to complain about.
I heard about someone this week who has been distressed and unsettled by some complaints she’s heard recently. But I get it, in the past I, too, have played the game of ‘their grumbling has affected me’ and when I look back I wonder if I was telling the absolute truth? Did the dissatisfaction of others really distress me, or did I latch onto it and feed off it, joining in? Did I piggy-back on their complaints to disguise my own?
There’s a lovely lovely insight in the Book of Job, said by Zophar, who was ultimately trite and biased but on the way he found some real insight;
Though evil is sweet in his mouth
and he hides it under his tongue,
though he cannot bear to let it go
and lets it linger in his mouth,
yet his food will turn sour in his stomach;
it will become the venom of serpents within him. (Job 20:12-14)
This illustrates so perfectly how we savour our wrongness, how we enjoy our sin, our delicious naughtiness, complaining and being self-righteous. Mmmmm. Lovely. Temptation is lovely, that’s why it tempts us. Complaining is so satisfying. And it rots our thinking, just as sugar rots our teeth and booze rots our liver. But they’re yummy! A big fat sugary doughnut…. a bottle of wine…. not together maybe, but you get my drift. We wouldn’t devour them if they didn’t tempt us. Obvs. A good old rant about how hurt we are, how offended, how rejected, unappreciated, persecuted…. delicious! And if we have a silent audience, or – even better – an appreciative one… it’s really satisfying. We feed our self, our sense of outrage, stoking it up, accepting victimhood, virtue-signalling with every phrase, and if, on the way to our own ‘rightness’, we judge or condemn someone else, well, that’s just us being truthful and honest, isn’t it?
No. It’s not. It’s us looking after ourselves at the cost of others. Not Christian. It’s us damaging the peace, harmony and love of Christ.
Socrates said ‘The unexamined life is not worth living’ and he’s right. But it’s a costly thing to do, to examine your own life. It involves recognising our own flaws, self-deceptions, the veneers we adopt, and the games we play even sub-consciously. And for a Christian that means that we must take our examined lives, the discoveries we’ve made, however painful, and we surrender them to God. Ouch.
Really, ouch! I mean, really. Bloody hell, it hurts.
The woman who was unsettled by the complaints of others, how many of them did she share? Did she dwell on them and then build on them? Did they become her own? Is that why she’s so unsettled? Did the complaints she listened to and shared ‘turn sour in her stomach’? Is that why she’s weeping now? By opening herself up to the grumbling of others, has she allowed herself to be poisoned? And whose responsibility is that? Fifty-fifty, I reckon.
What can I do about my tendency to complain? What can I do about the complaints of others? Whether I’m the speaker or the listener, how can I guard against complaints? A verse springs to mind immediately;
‘whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.’ Philippians 4:8
I expect I’ll continue to grumble about the life of a solitary 70 year old, but I hope I do so tongue in cheek, enjoying my life and inviting others to enjoy it with me. I hope that most of my time is spent delighting and not complaining. I’m reminded of falling down in the dunes, when I rolled about in the grasses and orchids for ages, when the absurdity of it just made me laugh and laugh and laugh.
To be here, now, after the life I’ve led, feeling like this, in love with God and full of disjointed thoughts and meanderings…. such a lonely happy contradictory mess… absurd. Absurd creature who God loves. Thank God that God loves us all.
Already absurdly complaining, aged … erm, about 18months I think.