Above all, let not the evil of grumbling appear in the least word or sign for any reason whatever. If anyone be found guilty herein, let him be placed under very severe discipline." -Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 34
Grumbling! Benedict did not like grumbling at all! He didn't like it for very good reasons. In his time abbeys were islands of safety and learning in a sea of danger and ignorance. He knew nothing could destroy a small community so quickly, as rumors and grumbling amongst its members. Benedict's admonition should be heeded as much today as it has been over the course of monasticism.
We know what happens too frequently when we do not achieve our need for immediate gratification. That's right, we grumble and complain. And the worst offenders are found in the midst of congregations. "I can't have my own way! Than I'm going to leave and take my money with me!" Of course there are also the parking lot grumblers. You know the ones! After every meeting you can find them undoing whatever has been accomplished by grumbling out in the church's parking lot.
Before you think I'm pointing the fingers at congregants, I think we ministers, myself included, can be some of the worst offenders. If you want to hear grumbling at its finest, check out any local lectionary study group. But be warned, come prepared to hear an ear full of complaints.
Think of what a difference it could be if grumbling was absent from our midst. What could we accomplish with the energy we spend complaining about our sisters and brothers? Every time I want to complain about someone in a congregation I think about the log in my own eye. Do I do a great job about that? Well, no. My answer to that comes under the heading of constant conversion. My conversion to Christ's path will not be finished until the day of my death. I am constantly in the state of turning around.
As for having enough, why don't we celebrate it instead of complaining about it? Use enough for ourselves. That leaves more for others. Benedict's idea of giving to everyone according to their need could have a great impact on our debate on health care! It could also have a great impact on congregational budgeting. Do we really need to replace the Sanctuary carpet? Or should we use the money to support someone who is out of work?
Bob Perkins expressed this idea best in a story he told:
"Recently I overheard a father and daughter at the airport in their last moments together. They had announced her departure and, standing near the security gate, they hugged and he said, "I love you. I wish you enough." She in turn said, "Daddy, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, too, Daddy."
They kissed and she left. He walked over toward the window where I was seated. Standing there I could see he wanted and needed to cry. I tried not to intrude on his privacy, but he welcomed me in by asking, "Did you ever say goodbye to someone knowing it would
be forever?" "Yes, I have," I replied. Saying that brought back memories I had of expressing my love and appreciation for all my Dad had done for me. Recognizing that his days were limited, I took the time to tell him face to face how much he meant to me. So I knew what
this man experiencing.
"Forgive me for asking, but why is this a forever goodby?" I asked. "I am old and she lives much too far away. I have challenges ahead, and the reality is, the next trip back will be for my funeral," he said. "When you were saying goodbye I heard you say, "I wish you
enough." May I ask what that means?"
He began to smile. "That's a wish that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone." He paused for a moment and looking up as if trying to remember it in detail, he smiled even more. "When we said 'I wish you enough,' we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them," he continued and then turning toward me he shared the following as if he were reciting it from memory:
"I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.
I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
I wish enough "Hello's to get you through the final "Goodbye."
He then began to sob and walked away. "
My sisters and brothers, I pray we may all be too aware of the logs in our own eyes to grumble. Oh, and by the way, I wish you enough.