Herald Journal Columns
Sept. 13, 2004 Herald Journal
Pastor's Column

Stop complaining and get on with it

By Rev. Sherri L. Sandoz, Bethel Lutheran Church, Lester Prairie

Last week, I was privileged to spend a few days at a retreat center in Middleton, Wis. The monastery is home to the women of the Order of St. Benedict, who live and worship together in a spiritual discipline called the “Rule of St. Benedict,” as it was established by a monk of the same name from Nursia, Italy in the sixth century.

I went to the retreat center for the purpose of prayer and contemplation. I worshipped with the community and listened for that still, small voice of discernment that has guided me well thus far in my journey of faith.

I came away renewed, refreshed and feeling affirmed in my call to parish ministry. Having enjoyed the sun’s warmth and nature’s song, I began my drive back home proclaiming “This is the day the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad in it!”

Then I turned on the radio.

Listening to the voices of popular culture, I heard messages of a different sort blaring at me within a few short miles of St. Benedict Center.

I encountered a barrage of negative messages declaring that I am too old, too fat, and too poor, and that I deserve more.

I heard a loud voice proclaiming the youthful benefits of the latest fad diet. Then, a serious declaration had me second-guessing all my investment strategies.

Gruff and macho was the next announcement, promoting a new line of pick-up trucks. What in the world is a “hemi,” anyway, and should I care?

Eventually, I caught myself being pulled ever deeper into this ridiculous tirade, and repulsed, I switched the radio off.

I began to think about the world and the many ways we talk about it. I became aware of how much easier it is to talk about what sinks us. Our conversations so often begin and end in complaint.

We seem to live in a culture of dissatisfaction, where the focus is deficit-based and ever seeking to discover what’s lacking. Even our marketing strategies center on finding a need, then filling it.

This attitude, it seems, is symptomatic of an affluent culture that finds itself fearful of not having enough. Identifiers include the hoarding of possessions, even into major indebtedness. It has us looking out for ourselves to the exclusion of those in need.

It is a world-view that is no different than that of the ancient Egyptian Pharaohs, who grew more grain and built larger barns for fear of not having enough. The most powerful kingdom on earth at the time, Egypt maintained a world-view of scarcity.

That ancient world-view of scarcity never seems to go away – and with good reason. When people dwell on what is lacking, there can be no forward movement. A world-view of scarcity, of never having enough, keeps us stuck.

There is another way to look at the world. Perhaps the remedy for the scarcity mentality is to focus on what is right with the world.

When we begin to acknowledge all that our Creator has provided for our daily living, we begin to take on a world-view of abundance. Before long, we learn to name not only what is good and positive in creation, but also what is good and positive about you and me.

How do you feel right? Where have you gone right, even in the midst of chaos? What are your strengths, and how can you continue to act on them?

Psalm 104 is a poetic vision of the world and the work of the Lord. Not only does it provide a positive world-view full of creation’s abundance, but it provides the view and language that is appropriate for faith. For those who live by faith, its view and language qualify and define all other ways of thinking and speaking.

The psalm gives us a way to talk to God about the world in a relationship of creation and providence for all living things. When the focus is on God’s abundance, the world opens before us in splendid possibility.

I have a message for today’s popular culture, steeped as it is fear and scarcity: Stop complaining about what you lack. Give thanks to the Creator who provides for your every need.

Start seeing the good in your life now, and the numerous possibilities for the future. Begin asking God for what you want. And get on with it.