I recently had a stark reminder of my tendency to take things for granted. It all began when I arrived home after a day out with the family to find our homestead engulfed in a cold front. I immediately checked the circuit breaker thinking that maybe we had tripped it, but to my chagrin everything was fine there. It appeared as though our furnace was in need of some T.L.C. and since I am no Tim the Toolman I had to call a repairman. So, this morning I find myself sitting in front of our fireplace writing this article as I turn myself around like a rotisserie chicken when one side gets too hot and the other side too cold.
This whole experience has reminded me of just how easy life has become for us. Though my daughter and wife look on this as some sort of Little House on the Prairie adventure I know the novelty would soon wear off for them if we had to spend even half of the cold months living like this. Yet, this is exactly how our ancestors lived just a few generations ago, and some unfortunately still do. Everything was a struggle for them. Heat didn’t come from the gas or electric company with automatic climate control year round at the touch of a button. Food wasn’t purchased at a grocery store prepackaged and ready to pop in the microwave. And the cure for common ailments wasn’t as simple as a visit to the family physician for a flu shot or an antibiotic. Life in general was much more difficult. The elements were harsh and life was much more about survival than embellishment.
Today, for most of us life is far more about embellishment. The concerns jostling around in our minds are not about heat and food and sickness as much as they are about flat screens and french fries and fashion. That’s a luxury many of us have because of the incredible advancements that have taken place in fields like science and technology.
This reminder brought with it a sobering realization. In spite of all these advancements that have contributed to the relative ease of my life I still find it very easy to grumble and complain about life and the cards I am dealt. I can’t tell you the last time I walked through the door of my home and expressed gratitude for the electric company faithfully supplying me with energy. Instead I get irritated when that energy goes out for a few minutes, or an afternoon, inconveniencing me and my family. I grumble and complain not because my life is in danger but because things are no longer convenient. Even in the midst of this reminder of the conveniences of life I am struggling with grumbling and complaining because furnaces should be made to be maintenance free and they should last forever, or at least until I have moved out and the next guy moves in. It embarrassing how ugly our hearts are when we take an honest inventory isn’t it?!
A wise teacher once wrote, “In everything give thanks.” This could be written off as an absurd statement if it had been written by someone who had never experienced anything but luxury, but the individual who wrote this phrase was the same individual who spent much of his life in a state of survival, skirting death on more than one occassion. Various accounts of his life document the meager means on which he had to survive, the rigorous travel that took a toll on his health and the physical torture and imprisonment he endured at the hands of his enemies. It was in the midst of this lifestyle that the Apostle Paul wrote these shocking words. A contemporary of Paul’s records this was Paul’s lifestyle not just a catchphrase. During one particular unjustified imprisonment Paul was found singing joyful songs of gratitude. Bound, chained, beaten and smiling – Are you kidding me? I don’t know about you but that’s the kind of person who I just want to trip when they’re walking down the street. There’s that ugly heart again. I can’t help but think that maybe a change of heart and a change of outlook would do many of us a lot of good. Maybe I do have a lot more to be thankful for and a lot less to grumble about. So here goes. I may be sitting here in the cold waiting for the repairman to arrive but at least I have a fireplace and it certainly has brought the family closer together, literally. Maybe things aren’t so bad after all. I’m not bound, I’m not beaten, but I am smiling.