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I don't know what's wrong with me, but lately, I've been slipping into grumpy too much and too fast. Sure, my life is stressful -- full-time work, full-time family, part-time lots of other things. Too much to keep up with, too much to do, and too much I'd like to do but can't. Never enough time, or money, or energy. But despite my share of the real burdens we all have, I know that I have so very much to be grateful for.
Still, for some reason that is probably a whole lot more like no reason at all, I can't seem to stop complaining. There's no sidestepping the fact that I'm the one who's putting a very thick layer of grumpiness between whatever gratitude I do have and everyone around me. My grouchiness isn't about anyone else; it's about me. I'm the problem I've got to solve.
That's where it gets even harder. The truth is I don't know how to solve me. I'm not even sure where to begin. Last week while driving -- and I do a lot of driving -- I remembered Teresa of Avila's prayer at the foot of a statue of the scourged Christ. Deeply experiencing her own inadequacies, Teresa told Jesus, "I'm not leaving until you change me."
My life doesn't allow me to stay in one place long enough to say those words the way Teresa did. And, well, I'm no Teresa of Avila. But it is encouraging to realize that Teresa of Avila wasn't the Teresa of Avila we know and admire at the start either. Perhaps, like her, I can ask God to give me the grace to change the things I can, and leave the give the rest of the overhaul--and I do mean overhaul -- to him. Intellectually I know that gratitude is the foundation of the spiritual life. I don't do a very good job of living that out. Maybe if I stop trying to do what I know I can't, I'll be able to cut back on the grumpiness and negativity. Maybe if I focus my heart on what God has do and can do, I won't feel so overwhelmed or disappointed in myself. Maybe if I really look at what others do and have been doing for me, I will stop the complaining long enough to realize that I have next to nothing to complain about.
It isn't Lent, but it is most definitely time for me to give up grumpiness for good. I need to avoid following my own negative thoughts to their logical, uncharitable, and self-centered conclusions. I need to take more time for and with the people in my life, especially those closest to me. And honestly, I need to stop answering what I perceive as self-pity in others with a bigger, better, and more powerful version of my own.
God has been faithful to me. He has led me, fed me, guarded and protected me throughout my life. I don't think that's about to change. In fact, he has promised it won't. Meanwhile, I've fallen short, messed up, missed the mark, kicked and screamed, and outright rebelled along the way. The not-so-funny thing is that I've not only lived to tell about it, I've managed to complain about a lot of it.
I don't deserve God's mercy or anyone else's. If I can manage to hold onto that thought, God will be able to change me. If I can't, then I suspect I'll stall out where I am, and be less than what I was created to be. That is the one thing I don't want to happen, the one completely legitimate complaint I don't want God to have about me at the end of the time he has given me here. Lord, I'm not leaving until you change me. Teach me how to be truly thankful. Swallow my grumpiness in gratitude for all you've done, for all you want to do, for all only you can do.
Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a wife and mother of eight children, and a disciple of the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. She is an inspirational author, speaker, musician and serves as an Associate Children's Editor at Pauline Books and Media.