I have to confess that I tend to have a “critical” spirit,” which is to say that I too often first see things, circumstances or people in a negative way. Perhaps this is because by nature, training and experience I tend to analyze and critique. This can be useful if the approach is open minded and intended to identify both problems and corresponding solutions. It’s not useful when it leads to a darkening of my spirit. According to Proverbs 9:12, “If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.” (NIV)
So why do I bring this up at a time when we are all experiencing such great joy over our new church building? Be honest now. I’m probably not alone in wishing our building were larger, with more and bigger classrooms, more parking, a bigger kitchen and worship space, greener grass, more complete landscaping and on and on. I know that a reasonable response is to recognize and accept that we built all we could with the financial resources available. That is a good and accurate answer. However, on reflection, I’m finding it a lot more satisfying to at least try to abandon myself to thanksgiving. I’m not suggesting that I am a paragon of either abandonment or thanksgiving – I am very much a work in progress in all things – but at least trying to focus on thanksgivings lifts my spirit away from the darkness of criticism.
There is more. In my life I have found that unchecked or at least uncontained criticism leads to “worry.” Jesus clearly addressed “worry” in a personal sense (saying nothing about church buildings) in Mt. 6:25, 27 and 33-34: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (NIV)
Finally, thanksgivings are more contagious than the flu. When I see or hear people in our fellowship remarking on our multitude of thanksgivings, my spirit is lifted. Period.
P.S. from Fr Travis:
Alan’s article is a good complement to our new Bishop’s first letter to us as a Diocese in which he gives thanks for the Consecration, and provides guidance regarding Lent. Along with the usual fasts undertaken during Lent, Bishop Chris calls us to consider whether God may ask us to “choose to give up something even deeper, such as using critical speech, or being overly busy. If you do choose to give something up, my advice is to do so mindfully and prayerfully rather than religiously or from guilt.” I encourage you to read his entire letter.
Your Pastor in Christ,