Grumbly Hateful or Humbly Grateful
By Dixie Phillips
While growing up in the Midwest, I sometimes complained to the Lord, "Why couldn't I have been born in Hawaii or California?" There were, however, deeper issues in our home than a geographic location.
My mother suffered from depression, which required frequent hospitalizations. My brothers and I were too young to stay at home alone, so for months at a time while Mom was hospitalized, we lived with our "old fashioned" grandparents. There were many days I grumbled, "Why can't we live like normal kids with our parents?"
When I entered middle school, and the cliques started forming, I bellyached some more. "Why don't they let me in their group? Why can't I be the pretty one? Why can't I be popular? Why can't I be on the cheerleading squad?" And in the midst of my confused state, I was, once again, yanked out of my home, without any explanation, separated from my two older brothers, whom I adored, and placed with my "even more strict" (because teenagers needed to learn to work) grandparents for an entire year. I would often lament, "Why me?"
My complaints continued as I entered high school. "It's always the wealthy kids that seem to have it made. Why couldn't I have been born to a rich family? If I had money I would be popular."
I had a relationship with Jesus as a young girl, and there were moments of thankfulness in my life, but thanksgiving was not a way of life for me--complaining was. I was a shy, backward girl, and may not have voiced my negativity outwardly, but inwardly I was very ungrateful. The adults in my life found me to be a sweet, Christian young person, who didn't cause any trouble, but inside I was most miserable.
I spent my college years fighting the same battle. I seemed to view my life through the infamous "if onlys" and "what ifs?" that plague all ungrateful souls.
When I was nineteen, I felt Jesus deal with my heart about surrendering my life to ministry-specifically, to be a pastor's wife. There was a tug-of-war in my soul because, to be quite blunt, where I came from, ministers didn't make much money--unless, of course, you were a televangelist.
I was exhausted from of all the scrimping and saving I had been through in my life. I wanted to go out and make a name for myself, but "The Call" just wouldn't go away. It hounded me day and night. Finally, I fell at the foot of the Cross and surrendered.
In 1976, I met my husband-to-be at East Texas Bible College, and we married the following year. He graduated and we were offered a small, rural church in the Midwest. That was when I found there were "a whole lot" more things to complain about in the ministry than I ever had discovered in my childhood.
My husband saw my plight and decided we needed a retreat. We found a ministry in Zion, Illinois, staffed by four humble souls who walked with God. Ironically, their ministry headquarters was located at 2912 Enoch Street. Ministers from all over the world came there for rest and teaching.
At the head of this unique ministry was a woman in her seventies named Mary Elizabeth Judd. She was noted as being a "minister's minister" and had an enormous gift of discernment. During my first session with Mary Elizabeth, she asked me to share from my heart what some of my problems were. I poured my heart out to her. She wasn't even five feet tall, but every inch of her radiated the love of Jesus. She listened intently as I went down my list of difficulties.
Exasperated, I finally asked, "What do you think my problem is?"
After a moment of silence, she lovingly patted my hand and replied, "Do you think you are a negative person?"
I was shocked. Me? Negative? No way! Absolutely not! But after that session, it was as if light had been shed in the deep crevices of my soul.
For the next three months, every time I spoke a negative word it seemed like I was on speaker phone. I would literally have to stop in mid-sentence because I knew I was being "grumbly hateful not humbly grateful." I was so convicted. I spent most of my devotional time pleading with the Lord to change my negative disposition and fill my heart with thanksgiving.
Little by little, my life began to change. My first "homework" assignment from Heaven was forgiveness. My grandmother often sang about "Letting go and letting God have His way," but I didn't comprehend the concept. Now there was light in my soul for which I had long sought. I let go of the hurts of my past. I made a consecration to Jesus that I would spread "Son-shine" to others and tell Him the rest.
As I did this, a miraculous transformation took place. All the stumbling-blocks of my childhood became ministry steppingstones. I learned a valuable lesson in His school--God never wastes our trials. Grandparents, who were raising their grandchildren, started attending our church. When those grandchildren found out we shared a common bond, they flocked to my office. I was once one of them. Oh, I am so thankful that I lived with my grandparents for certain seasons in my life so I can relate to the deep wounds in the hearts of the precious souls God has sent to us.
The ladies' prayer group of our church started a new ministry--they planned and coordinated ecumenical tea parties. Women from all races and religious backgrounds gathered together for a night of inspirational fellowship. Numerous women would contact me afterwards and express their struggle with depression. How thankful I was to share with them my story. I could tell them that I understood, firsthand, what a family experiences when depression strikes one of their loved ones.
We have labored at that same rural church for twenty-six years. God has been good to us and blessed us above and beyond our expectations. How thankful I am that I was born and raised in a small town in a country setting. God looked ahead in time and knew the plan He had for my life. I was grateful to be a common soul because there are so many common people that need Jesus' love.
I'm surrounded by a loving family and a wonderful church family. To top it all off, I finally made the cheerleading squad. I am honored to cheer for my husband every Sunday, as he breaks the Bread of Life to hungry hearts.
I'm so glad that God used one of His servants to ask me a simple question: "Do you think you are a negative person?" It has changed my life forever and I'm positively grateful.
DIXIE PHILLIPS is a pastor's wife of 30 years, mother of four grown children and a ghostwriter. You can find out more about the ministry she and her husband Paul are involved in at www.floydlighthouse.com. Many of Dixie's writings have been published by Standard Publishing, Abingdon Press and Eldridge Publishing. If you would like to write to Dixie, you can do so via the Letters page of this magazine.