“I met a girl who sang the blues
And I asked her for some happy news
But she just smiled and turned away.” — Don McLean
On some days I know exactly what I want to write about and I can sit down and bang out a post in ten minutes or less. As Tony Shaloub’s character said, “it’s a blessing and a curse.” There are other times when there is a complex subject in my head and I need to few posts to flesh these things out. I promise to refund you all the money you’re out.
These ideas are swirling around my head and they need to come out. I am responsible for planning a prayer meeting for our pastoral council and there is only one thing I want to communicate with them. The question is the how. There is so much there and so many different places I’ve seen it. You end up taking a little from each and hope that the combination produces something worth listening to.
The challenge in this space is to carve out a message that can be digested by people of all faith (or no faith) traditions. The message is simple. In order to experience true conversion one has to transfer themselves from a state of grievance to a state of gratitude. It’s a simple enough message, but there is a lot to unpack there, so we should try to do that while I’ve got your attention.
What exactly is a grievance state? Simply put, it is when we get into a head space where we are worried about what we don’t have, can’t have, or what someone gets to have. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight for our rights or to get the needs to any particular group me. It means we need to move beyond the whole idea of “why does group A get this when group B doesn’t get that?” Usually, group A and group B have nothing to do with each other. So, asking such a question only ends up resulting in anger towards group A.
There are forces of darkness out there that don’t want Group B to get what they need. The easiest way to keep from having to give groups what they need is to get us to remain focused on groups that get stuff they “don’t deserve.” See, there’s that nasty word again. So, instead of being upset about needs not being met is to get people to focus on groups that are getting assistance and “shouldn’t be”.
It even sneaks into our theology. How often have we heard the phrase, “God helps people that help themselves.” The phrase is actually not in the Bible. It was originally attributed to Ben Franklin. Yet, it has become our number one reason for not helping those around us. They don’t deserve our help. They ruined their own life. They made bad choices and that is why they are in the state they are in. This may even be true in many instances.
However, a part of that gratitude mindset is the understanding that many of us are where we are because someone was there to help us when we made many of those same mistakes. Someone was there to help us when we didn’t make mistakes, but something horrible happened just the same. There was a shoulder to cry on. There was someone with a couch we could sleep on, someone with a few extra bucks to help us through, or with connections to help us get back on our feet.
When we have a focus on gratitude we are more likely to be that for someone else. We are more likely to take bad news in stride. We are more likely to understand that some people will need more help than others. They may make mistakes and seemingly make the same mistakes over and over again. Maybe they are capable of standing on their two feet on their own. They can still use our help until they do.
In the public arena, we can focus on fighting for people that have yet to have their needs met. We can ignore the voices of darkness that want us to focus on what the undeserving are getting. After all, foaming at the mouth about what one person gets doesn’t get us or anyone else any closer to what we/they need. Plus, a gracious person is a lot happier than a grievous person is.