Friday, February 9, 2018

Whiners

Christmas made me sick this year. Beginning December 26, I was afflicted with the crud and it took me until February to feel human again. It was brutal. The worst part was that during this time I felt myself becoming something I detest: a whiner. Whiners drive me up a wall!

The last time I was with my three-year-old grandson, Nick, he started whining. I saw this as a teachable moment and introduced him to the Whiner family by pulling up a video of an old episode of Saturday Night Live on my phone. You may remember them. Every word they utter is spoken in a whiny tone that is as annoying as a preacher hacking and clearing the mucus out of her or his throat after every sentence. I never thought the Whiners were all that amusing. Mostly, I just wanted to turn the TV off. Nick watched with interest wondering what this had to do with whatever it was he was whining about.

“Are you a member of the Whiner family?” I asked him.

“I’m not a member of the Whiner family; I’m Nicholas Ferrara.” He spoke the words even whinier than before, just to let me know who was in charge.

Kids and cats are notorious whiners. As someone who lives with a cat, I seldom hear Guido whine these days, and when he does, he never gets what he wants. I won’t reward it. I like to believe that’s why he rarely whines. I think the same method works on kids. Neither my son nor my daughter are whiners. If they whined when they were wee little, it didn’t last long. They knew better. It never got them very far with me. As for other people’s kids, well, you need to know that I love other people’s kids. Really, I do. But when they whine, I’m gone.

As a pastor, from time-to-time, parishioners come to me and whine. I don’t have a problem with crying, which I believe is good for the soul, and I consider it an honor when someone shares their tears with me. But whining is something else. And when they whine, it takes all the restraint I can muster to listen sympathetically when everything within me wants to smack them and shout, “Suck it up!”

I’m grateful that God is a lot more patient than I am with whiners. It seems to be God’s nature to put up with them. There was Adam who whined that he wasn’t responsible for his actions; it was all Eve’s fault. And who can forget the children of Israel, who were saved from slavery and certain death through a miracle of God’s deliverance, and then proceeded to whine for forty years because things weren’t quite perfect on the way to the Promised Land. Jesus’ disciples were classic whiners, all worried about petty concerns, like who got to talk to Jesus, or who got to sit where in the Kingdom, as if any of that mattered a hill of beans. And then there’s Saint Paul, who was so pathetic, whining round and round in circles about how he wanted to do the right thing, but as hard as he tried, he always ended up doing what he knew he shouldn’t be doing. Oh, Whaa! Whaa! Whaa!

The Bible might be subtitled, The Book of Whining. It’s filled with self-centered people who don’t get what God’s up to and can only fret about what’s in it for them, or as often as not, what’s not in it for them. Of course, the Bible gives us a spot-on representation of humanity.

If I were God, I would have ended the whining a long time ago. I really don’t know how God tolerates it. But from what I know of God, she/he does more than tolerate it. God seems to have an affinity toward whiners. I don’t understand it one bit. But it’s true.

As much as I hate it hate it hate it hate it, there are times when I have to whine because I know that if I don't, I may implode, and I suspect that would be worse. So, all that being said, I really do appreciate the fact that God is a lot more gracious with whiners than I am. I count on it.  

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