Why I'm Ungrateful
Russell Moore is president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the moral and public policy agency of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. Dr. Moore is the author of several books, including Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel and The Storm-Tossed Family: How the Cross Reshapes the Home. A native Mississippian, he and his wife Maria are the parents of five sons.
- 2010 Nov 24
"If I hear the word ‘Daddy' again, I'm going to scream!"
I heard myself saying those words. And, in my defense, it was loud around here. I was trying to work on something, and all I could hear were feet pounding down the stairs with four boys competing with one another to tell me one thing after another. I just wanted five minutes of silence.
My vocal chords were still vibrating when an image hit my brain. It was the picture of me, on my face, praying for children. The house was certainly quiet then. And in those years of infertility and miscarriage and seemingly unanswered prayers, I would have given anything to hear steps on that staircase. I feared I would never hear the word "Daddy," ever, directed to me. Come to think of it, I even wrote a book about the Christian cry of "Abba, Father."
And now I was annoyed. Why? It wasn't that I'd changed my mind about the blessing of children. It was that my family had become "normal" to me. In the absence of children, the blessing was forefront on my mind. But in their presence, they'd become expected, part of what I expected from my day-to-day existence. And that's what's so dangerous.
Gratitude is spiritual warfare. I'm convinced my turn of imagination that day was conviction of sin, a personal uprooting of my own idolatry by the Spirit of Christ. What I need to fear most is what seems normal to me.
We're all, in some way or other, in the same place the people of Israel were in in Joshua 23 and 24. Joshua, their warrior-leader, stands before them and recounts all the blessings God has given, reminding them that "not one word has failed of all the good things that the Lord God promised concerning you" (Josh. 23:14a). Joshua said, "All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed" (Josh. 23:14b).
And yet, as Joshua foretold (and Moses before him), the people would soon be in the land of olive trees and wine presses. These things, what they'd cried for in the wilderness, would soon seem "normal" to them. And, soon enough, they'd crave more and more, so much so that they'd chase after Canaanite idols to get what they wanted.
This is what some philosophers call "hedonic adaptation." We tend to adjust to the level of happiness or prosperity we have. We grow to expect it, to not even notice it. And then we want more. That's why it's so hard for people to come down in standard of living. It's easy to move from a studio apartment to a two-story house, but it's awful to do the reverse. Few people have a problem going from a 1985 Ford Fairmont to a brand new BMW, but it's incomprehensible to go the other direction.
This is the way of all flesh, as it is pulled toward the abyss by the satanic powers. It is always so. The garden of Eden becomes mere vegetation for blinded humans in the beginning. The mountains and caves become mere covering for blinded humans in the end.
The Spirit of Christ draws us toward gratitude because the Spirit convicts us of our creatureliness. We're dependent on breath, on bread, on love, and these things come, personally, as gifts from a Father (Jas. 1:17).
Is there anything in your life that you've grown accustomed to? Is there something you prayed for, fervently, in pleading in its absence that you haven't prayed for, fervently, in thanksgiving in its presence? There's several such things in my life, and, I fear, many more that I don't even think about.
I'm typing this at the kitchen table. I was just interrupted by Moore boys wrestling for the last Little Debbie Cake in the pantry. As soon as I heard "Daddy," I looked up, even in writing this article, in frustration. But the Spirit still crucifies, still resurrects.