It’s 6:24am and I have just given my infant son his bottle, an hour ahead of schedule. I am gazing into his little round face, getting in one last snuggle and sniff before I lay him back down, when a thought passes through my drowsy brain: He never ever says thank you. Not once! No “thanks Mommy for getting up with me every hour on the hour to pop my pacifier back in my mouth since 3:30 this morning.” No “thanks for interrupting your dreams at 6 to make my favorite breakfast (6 ounces of warm Similac Isomil).” Occasionally I might get a smile or a coo, but this morning, not even that. In fact, he is fussing at me right now.
I am being a bit facetious because he is only four months old. But recently my annoyance regarding the lack of gratitude has been more authentic regarding two of my other children, who are ages 2 and 3. What irritates me no end is when we have had a wonderful, utterly child centered day. Say we have been to the mall playground and then to an “eat house” for quesadillas and Sprite, i.e., toddler nirvana. As we walk back in the door of our home, one asks for a popsicle, Mommy says no, and all Hades breaks loose. Weeping and gnashing of teeth, full on temper tantrums ensue. Then my annoyance is quite sincere. I have been Perfect Sacrificial Mommy all day long. I have orchestrated my entire day around their pleasure. And now they are throwing fits because yet more sugar was refused by me, Responsible Mommy, who has only dental health and approaching bedtime at heart? Little ingrates! has thundered through my brain on such occasions.
A thought has struck me - does God ever feel like I do? Does he look at all he has given me, all that he has arranged for my pleasure, and get irritated when I throw a tantrum because I didn’t get a popsicle too?
Well, the Old Testament is full of God getting extremely irritated at his people’s ingratitude. From the very beginning, God gave Adam and Eve every single thing in the garden but one and they just aren’t satisfied and they just have to have that popsicle of Good and Evil, and here we are all now. The main job of the Old Testament prophets was to tell the people, watch out, shape up, turn back to the Father with hearts of thanksgiving or he’s gonna blow. His righteous anger over their ingratitude led to the Babylonian captivity, for one thing, and possibly to the Flood. His displeasure at their blatant lack of gratitude is most flagrant in Exodus. God rescues the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt through a series of spell bounding miracles and as soon as they hit the desert, the whining begins on a grand scale. My children would be proud of them. The result for the Israelites? No Promised Land for you, bellyachers. Your children will enter, but you will grumble to death here in the desert.
So what does God think when he surveys the beautiful, healthy, and oh so prayed for children that surround me while I whine about how tired I am? Or when he sees me in the kitchen with my husband, the one I begged the Lord for 20 years, received by his grace, and now curse because he has shirked his trash duty again? Is he frustrated beyond belief while I sit in an air-conditioned church that the martyrs died for and gripe about the music?
Praise be to God, he is not. Because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who laid his life down to deflect the wrath of the heavenly father, when God sees me, I think his heart dances in the same way mine does when my new son gives me a crooked smile. My sin is completely covered; my complaining has been washed by the blood of the Lamb. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Because God truly is the perfect parent, by the grace and works of Christ I am in his eyes the perfect child! The phrase Little ingrate does not cross his mind when he sees me. He is never ever irritated at me, which is a concept that took me a long time to fully believe. Whew.
So what is the issue? When my kids act that way, beneath the aggravation lies hurt. I know that they are young with no concept of empathy, so the hurt is currently small – but as they grow, it will grow as well. The feeling of ingratitude, of being unappreciated and possibly unloved despite our best efforts cuts our souls. Is this a reflection of God’s heart? Do I hurt him, do I grieve the Holy Spirit by my whining? Sadly, perhaps.
When I complain about an earthly situation, I am exhibiting an utter lack of appreciation of God’s providence. I have written in my bible from the first time that I studied Exodus, “Grumbling is a sin.” When I grumble I am not complaining against the situation per se. I am audaciously complaining against the one who orchestrated the situation. Moses and Aaron told the Hebrews, “You are not grumbling against us, but against the Lord.” Exodus 16:8. Apply that to my gripes and –the Ouch of conviction. I do not want to miss out on joy in the Lord, my own promised land, because I am too blinded by the imperfections of my situation to seek the beauty of his sovereignty.
I am reminded of when Job questioned the Lord (rather meekly, in my opinion) and got a downright sarcastic response from God, who essentially said, ok Job, aren’t you so smart, being that you created and control the world and all, tell me how you did it and then we'll talk. God is obviously very insulted. And poor Job actually had some very serious complaints. He had lost everything. Even still, God would have none of it.
At this point in my life, I can truly say that I have nothing to complain about. We are currently in a season of blessings. I have nothing on Job, nothing. But boy oh boy, can I whine when I think I deserve more popsicle!! How pathetic of me to insult the Lord, whose amazing sacrifice for me far overshadows my small maternal sacrifices, just because I didn't get my own way. Like....a two year old.
My prayer is that my response will be like Job’s in verse 40:4:
“I am unworthy – how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth.”
I'll start with my mouth, and try and work my way down to my heart.
Wish me luck.