Sorry, I just need to vent!

Philippians 2:12-18 ESV

[12] Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, [13] for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

[14] Do all things without grumbling or disputing, [15] that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, [16] holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. [17] Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. [18] Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

Here’s a somewhat recent phenomenon that I’ve noticed gaining traction in my experience of life and faith.

The need to ‘vent’.

It usually follows one of two predictable patterns.

The first is an extended session of ‘truth telling’ and ‘getting things off my chest’, mixed with a healthy dose of ‘I just need to be honest here’ and ‘someone needs to say something’. When the emotional outpouring has ended, it is usually followed with an apology, then a ‘thanks for listening – I guess I just needed a good vent’.

I find the second pattern preferable; none of the content changes, but the order is reversed. At least you get a warning with the second option. “I’m sorry, but I just need to vent or I’m going to explode”… followed by ‘truth telling’, ‘getting things off my chest, ‘honesty’, etc. etc.

Somewhere along the line, how we relate to the pressures and difficulties of this life have been equated to a cooking appliance. ‘Venting’ has become an acceptable, and even encouraged, activity.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we aught to bottle up our emotions and live in denial of our feelings. Neither am I saying that life doesn’t, or shouldn’t, bring the heat sometimes. Life is tough. Living as a child of God in a crooked world was never going to be easy. But something here just doesn’t quite sit right. After either sitting through the emotional mess of someone else’s venting session, or after venting all over someone else myself, I’m left with an uneasy question sitting in the pit of my gut.

What’s the difference between ‘venting’ and ‘grumbling’?

Of course, grumbling or complaining isn’t a recent problem Christian’s have had to deal with. We’ve always naturally been a bunch of whining complainers. The problem is that if this continues, we live indistinct lives from the rest of the complaining world.

And for Paul, that’s a problem.

Discerning the difference between ‘working through the pressures of life’ and ‘grumbling’ is part of what it means to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling“. Identifying the indicators of a complaining spirit before we label it ‘venting’ as we spew out our emotions all over some poor unsuspecting soul is a mark of a Christian who is growing up.

The issue here isn’t about being known as complainers or not, the issue is, are we different to the rest of the world? Do our lives sparkle? Is the lack of grumbling and complaining so noticeable that it seems to light up the dark room everyone else seems to exist in?

I want to shine.

I want you to shine.

Because when we hold fast to the word of Christ together, when we find a way to work out our salvation in the middle of the heat and pressure of life, God’s pleasurable will is found.

And we can rejoice together.

To the praise of His glory.

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