Daily Reflection – A Playful Entry into Complaint

During this Covid-19 outbreak, I’m writing daily reflections. I know that my own understanding of my faith, my community, and of God is growing during this time, and I feel a need to turn away from anxiety once a day (at least) and focus on the ways that Christian love grows in our lives during times of crisis.

One day, when my daughter was four years old, we were walking home from the community center when it began to rain. She started to complain about being wet, and I paused for a moment, thought about telling her not to whine, then realized that I, too, was wet and unhappy. I decided to join her in her complaint. We made a game of finding things to complain about on the rest of the walk home. I tell you this story because all of us have a lot to complain about, and we actually belong to a faith tradition that honors complaint, that sees its usefulness and thinks it worthy of being included in scripture. Think of the psalms or the prophets. They were written by people who thought that it was completely acceptable, even necessary, to complain to God.

Another story. For the three years before I arrived at St. Stephen’s this past January, I was the Coordinator for Children and Youth Formation at St. John’s in Worthington. Every Sunday we’d hold Children’s Church with the kids, which would include our own version of the Prayers of the People. We used different methods for doing this, but regardless of the method, some very tiny child would always ask that we pray for a toy, or a TV or movie character. We always took these requests as seriously as we would any other prayer request, because we understood that the children were asking us to bless the joys in their lives.

Right now most of us are thinking in a global sense, and this is reflected in our prayers. This is very good. Yet at the same time we’re confined in our homes, moving through the same set of rooms, handling the same objects, consuming the same media day after day after day. We might grow very bored of this. Can we allow ourselves to complain, to say, “I am tired of this chair, this room, this book. I don’t like it anymore,” and say it not just to ourselves, but to God? And, conversely, can we allow ourselves to name the tiny blessings that we encounter during this time? “Thank you God, for this fifth rewatching of my favorite Netflix show, and the comfort that it gives me.” Or, “Thank you God for this frying pan, in which I am making eggs again, and which I’ve had for years.” Can we accept that God is involved in all of the small moments of our lives, especially now, when many of our lives are being reduced to very small moments indeed?

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