As I was driving home from work one evening this week I made a stop at the grocery store to pick up a few last-minute items I needed to prepare dinner. I loaded my bags in the car, and took my place behind the steering wheel.I had no sooner started my car when a woman with a full cart of groceries maneuvered her cart in the very tight space between my side of the car and the car next to me, while another full cart of groceries was being steered between the passenger side of my vehicle and another.
That cart, however, was too big to fit and hit the mirror of my car. My heart felt like it took a hit as well, as I watched the woman give my car an irritated look, as if it had appeared out of nowhere and got in her way.
And she kept walking.
My first reaction was disbelief followed by impatience to get home and tell my husband the nerve this person had .
However, my next thought wasn’t anything I was capable of at that moment, but led by none other than a God who knew I needed some serious intervention. I realized how my immediate reaction was so much less than Godly and judgmental. And I realized how it’s so much easier to take someone else’s inventory than my own.
I was judging and criticizing the actions of someone else when my own were less than favorable.
As I drove home, stubbornly still intent on telling my husband about the incident, I realized how quickly my heart had changed from calm and peaceful to dangerously irritated and resentful in less than a moment. By one incident. And how easily it is to hinge joy on circumstances rather than independent from circumstances.
And as my mind frequently does, it traveled further down the thought road, exploring every possible detour, each thought bouncing off of the other like a super ball.
By complaining and griping, in the name of venting or any other label I wish to put on it, is ingratitude, pure and simple. Relaying to someone else the wrongs that may have happened that day, reliving each episode as if it were happening all over again, changes the heart from peaceful and content simply because of we are–alive, healthy, and a child of God–to irritable and ungrateful because of something that happened, despite how insignificant that “something” is in the grand scheme of things.
While telling a trusted friend of something unpleasant or “unfair” that has happened during the day sounds innocent, it’s the state of the heart that can lead us into dangerous territory.
It’s when we let that anger, bitterness, and irritation take root in the heart, growing fast as weeds do, each negative thought working as fertilizer, until the weeds tangle and squeeze the life and breath out of a joyful heart, suffocating the peace that can reside there if we base our joy on God and His blessings, rather than circumstances.
This week, I will strive to use each circumstance that threatens my joy to be a lesson in practicing joy independent from circumstances. To allow Him to work through me to raise me above the circumstance to keep my joyful heart on Him. And when I find myself taking someone else’s inventory of their words and actions, to look within and change the state of my own heart.
I realize practice makes perfect, so I pray I’m a quick learner without needing copious opportunities to show up on my doorstep. 🙂
All is Grace.