My Ungrateful Heart

lonely man[1]

I had a little pity party today.  Ironic, I know, considering the fact that thousands of families across America gathered to count their blessings.  The truth is, I have a lot to be grateful for.  But for some reason my heart seemed dead set on finding things to complain about.  Minor grievances, irksome frustrations, circumstances beyond my control.  What got it all started was a comment my husband made in the morning.  I have a brilliant brother-in-law (currently in residency) who rarely gets time off.  This year he and his family couldn’t join us for Thanksgiving until Friday.  Unfortunately, my husband only had Thanksgiving Day off of work.  This morning, Clint sadly made the remark that he was disappointed he couldn’t spend his day-off with his family.  Knowing my husband, he was likely over it about five minutes after he voiced it.  But not me.  I let the comment stew until it began to fester: Yeah, that is disappointing.  Poor Clint!  Everybody will be here tomorrow and he’ll be back at work.  It’s so unfair!  Why doesn’t he ever get a break?  This stinks!  It really stinks!  It super-duper stinks!  Blah, blah, blah…on and on.

It’s amazing how easily my heart can drift into discontentment.  One minute I’m joyful, the next I’m sulking.  In reflection, I think there are two major battlegrounds–the mind and the heart.  Contrary to Paul’s teaching, I failed to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).  But I was especially susceptible to such thoughts because of the idols in my heart.  Like the dry wall in an attic, there are weak territories in our heart–tread too harshly and you’ll come falling through.  These are the sensitive spots, and for me, my husband is one of them.  I am fiercely protective of him.  I’d like to say it’s simply because I love him, but it’s not as noble as that.  I’m protective of him because I don’t trust God with him, and because I am constantly tempted to idolize him.  And my heart was only designed to idolize One Person.  Whenever I take my affections off Christ and lay them squarely on someone or something else, all manner of ugliness spews out of me.  Defensiveness.  Possessiveness.  Anger.  Envy.  (Really, all the things the Bible guarantees will spew out of a heart living in idolatry.)  So what’s the remedy?  I think it starts with learning where the weak places are.  Just like your dad use to point them out in the attic by warning, “Don’t step there!”  Only instead of avoiding them, reinforce them.  Memorize Scriptures to directly combat the idols you’re most tempted to turn to.  And be wary.  That’s what should have happened this morning.  I should’ve recognized that I’ve been here before.  This is familiar battleground, Jeanne!  Stand firm!  God is always in control.  He will minister to Clint.  You have so much to be thankful for.  Can you imagine what a greater encouragement I would have been to Clint?  Not to mention what greater joy I would’ve experienced?

In the end we went to Cracker Barrel for lunch (which, if you didn’t know, is one hopping place on Thanksgiving Day).  And in the process God used something powerfully simple to catch my attention.  I was standing behind an elderly man, waiting to request a table, when the waitress turned to him and brightly asked, “How many?”  The old man quietly said, “I’ll take one Thanksgiving dinner to go, please.”  I looked at him, and my heart fell to my toes.  I pictured him all alone, eating his Thanksgiving dinner by the TV set.  How can there be no one to cook this man Thanksgiving dinner?  No one to share it with him? 

There’s nothing like perspective to give you a cold hard slap in the face.  That old man with his small polite smile broke my heart today.  In so doing, he turned my heart back to the Lord.  With my eyes fixed on Him, the foolish grievances scattered like ash to the floor.  And wouldn’t you know it–my great God replaced them with joy, worship, and yes, even gratitude.  So tonight I am thankful for a gracious Father who faithfully loves every person He created–myself, my husband, and a lonely elderly gentlemen somewhere in Southern Georgia.

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