Family vacation is often the place where rubber meets the road. We discover who we are, growing in a rolling petri dish of personalities. One particular station wagon odyssey I remember my younger cousin grumbling and giving voice to all of our miseries, “Even my hair hurts!” she whined as she begged my aunt for a Band-Aid.
Road trips are still part of our family tradition and I’m pleased how well my teenage kids travel without complaint--except when the dog’s digestive system takes a wrong turn. Without warning there will be intermittent expressions of putrid hell-stench, which causes us all to gag and grumble.
My mom on the other hand gives us a proper example of tolerance for life’s minor inconveniences. It was the big family vacation at Kings Island Amusement Park and Campground. Uncle Jack had meticulously made a military-style canvas tent large enough to shelter two families. It didn’t have a floor, but we didn’t mind. In the morning when we all rose, Mom casually asked sweetly without angst, “Has anyone else been bothered all night by the ground fleas?” Nobody had, and when we returned from the bathhouse, we saw the problem. She’d placed her pillow directly in an ant trail! Poor thing swatted at them all night as they made their way determinedly over the treacherous terrain of a giant Mt. Rushmore that was her face.
Now imagine an epic family vacation that lasted 40 years, required walking in the hot sun with 600,000+ cousins, and lots of pets. One might expect some grumbling. But God doesn’t give them a pass. Instead He uses His chosen people as an example to show us how complaining can be a serious offense. In His eyes it shows lack of gratitude and trust, which damages any relationship. If we think whining is merely annoying, we need to think again. On that desert journey, the Israelites initially complained and received substance of bread and water which was good (Exodus 16-17). But when they became dissatisfied again, God rained down FIRE! (Numbers 11:1)…And when they grumbled yet again He sent a severe PLAGUE! (Numbers 11:33)…And when they were still whining impatiently a few chapters later, God sent VENOMOUS SNAKES and many Israelites died! (Numbers 21:4-6) It’s seriously offensive to Him.
I am convinced the problem in our country is we have lost our fear of God. We have been a grumbling group of grouches for too long (some for the past four years and some ever since last November). The good news is we have a chance to recognize this flaw in ourselves and ask for God’s mercy and grace to rain down on us.
In Chris Tomblin’s contemporary Amazing Grace he sings, “And like a flood, his mercy reigns, unending love, amazing Grace.” The song’s original version was written by a captain of a slave ship who converted to Christianity, became a minister and helped abolish slavery. His transformation came as a result of a violent storm at sea. I pray ours is less harrowing yet equally effective.
One possible way to transform our negative thinking is called “rubber band therapy”. Simply place this unassuming office supply around your tender wrist and snap it smartly when a complaint is on the tip of your tongue or has already escaped. It’s called aversion therapy and is supposed to break unproductive thought patterns. I think it’s humorous but at least it’s effort. Perhaps more effective would be memorizing Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, If there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
May we march on Christian soldiers to fight the good fight…like ants undeterred by obstacles in our path. And when it comes to complaining or whining, let’s try and avoid it like the plague! Snap!
Janet Cowger- Fliegel