pastoral/spiritual care

Complaining or a Touch of Yearning

“I seldom think about my limitations, and they never make me sad.  Perhaps there is just a touch of yearning at times, but it is vague, like a breeze among flowers.  The wind passes, and the flowers are content.”  -- Helen Keller

An acquaintance complimented me recently on the fact that he never hears me complaining.  I did not tell him that it is only because he isn’t listening at the right times!  Unfortunately, I do complain a good deal, as a lot of us do.  In summer, my friends and I (especially my fellow women) constantly outdo each other in finding fault with the way we look in shorts or sleeveless shirts or swimsuits.  Other friends are lamenting the fact that they cannot afford to go anywhere on vacation this summer.  Some of us complain about all the weddings we have to attend in the coming months, wondering when it will be our turn to get married, while others gripe about their spouses driving them crazy.  Those of us who are working grumble about our jobs, and our unemployed friends only wish they could find work at all.  One friend, plagued with financial troubles, family issues, and sudden health problems, wondered aloud, “Does God hate me?”

I must admit, such thoughts have crossed my mind at times.  Sometimes it is one big catastrophe, other times a string of small ones, that lead me to question whether God really cares about me.  I envy Helen Keller’s “touch of yearning.”  It amazes me that she could spend a lifetime without sight or hearing, and all the things we take for granted that come with those senses, yet still not become bitter.  Perhaps she had her moments of anger as well.  Part of me would like to think so, if only so that she would seem as flawed and human as the rest of us.  But overall, she focused on what she did have rather than what she did not, giving thanks to God for the blessings she felt abundantly.  She was well aware of the alternative, and the many who chose it.  “Often we look so long at the closed door,” she once said, “that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”  The option of being a “normal,” seeing, hearing person was not available to Helen, but she chose to live fully the opportunities that were hers – education, travel, writing, friendship – and she loved her life.  May we all find the grace to see every open door before us, instead of pounding on the ones that are closed. 

God, you are always at work opening new doors.  Help us to walk through them, trusting you to go with us and to love us, no matter what difficulties we may face along the way.  Amen.

-- Chaplain Stacy N. Sergent

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