“Hello, I am calling to speak to Mrs. or Mr. Grumbley?”
Growing up, when the landline would ring and who ever was on the other end of the line asked for a Grumble or Grumbley we knew it was a telemarketer.
My last name is Grumley, and I grew up in a strict no grumbling household. Complaining was not well tolerated. Complaints had nothing to do with hard work, or integrity, and they were often seen as disrespectful. I was taught that complaining gives the impression of being ungrateful.
The first line we get in the readings this week is,
The whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. (Ex 16:2)
The surrounding lines give the context. The Israelites are complaining because they are hungry. I understand what it feels like to be operating below my optimal levels when I am needing sustenance. But I also understand I have never been as hungry as the Israelites were when they were wandering around in the desert.
They complained so much that the Lord sent them bread from the sky (Ex. 16:12). If I had ever dared complain that much, I would have been sent straight to my room for an attitude adjustment.
This first reading is interesting to me if I look at it through a lens of compassion. What if complaining was the only way the Israelites knew how to ask for help?
“Hey Lord-we are struggling over here. We are trying to follow your will but could you provide a bit of nourishment? This is tipping from unpleasant to sucky. I didn’t really sign up for this.”And the Lord in his glory saw fit to respond,
“If you quit complaining and remember that I have a plan, I will send you some bread.”
This is a loose interpretation of course.
While most people do not want to be around someone who complains all the time, maybe we can start to think of these complaints as early cries for help. Usually complaints stem from being uncomfortable -take me for instance, no attitude adjustment will work for me if I am even slightly too hot. The desert would not be a good place for me. I would never make it.
However, I have found as soon as I start voicing my *slightly* annoying concerns, the temperature is magically lowered. No one wants to listen to me bitch about this. I will not rest until I am cool, and neither will anybody else.
I don’t wield this power willy-nilly. If I complain, I do it to incite change. I’m not saying that you should be willing to complain for the sake of complaining. If you do this, please do it away from me. But if your complaints help bring about a change that will change another’s life for the better? Well maybe that is a good reason for the Israelites to have grumbled at Moses and Aaron.
Or maybe they were just tired and hot and at the end of their freaking ropes.
I guess we will never know.
Use my discomforts to draw me closer to you.
Thank you for your mercy during this season of personal growth.
This is the first Dark Devotional Alicia Grumley has written. She enjoys the ways that this series gives her space to wonder about her faith life. During her day job, she herds cats by working as a full time Nanny in Indianapolis.
With special thanks to Elisa Low at Door Number 9 for the use of her image.