I'm sitting here on my deck this morning having my second cup. We're getting ready to go to camp and I have about a million things to pack and organize and make lists about, but I left the mess inside and stepped out here because I'm learning that messes can wait.
Here, I can look over at my little garden. The peas and beans are overcrowded and twisted all together but they're beginning to blossom and I love to see that surge of green rocking in the breeze. There's a duck quacking from the swamp at the bottom of our lane. Clovers are growing in the yard and Ethan said he needs to mow but I like their sweetness. It is here that I can step out of my own world - the naps and the churning laundry and the unstamped envelopes - and think about the question that has been pressing on my mind all week.
Do I believe that I am entitled to everything, or to nothing?
I am beginning to realize that this question is one of the most important questions we could ever ask ourselves. For if we believe we are entitled to everything, we will never be satisfied. But if we believe we are entitled to nothing, we will always be satisfied.
I am finding this true in my own life right now. For example, now that I'm in my third trimester with our second child, I'm beginning to experience a lot of pain and discomfort. Some mornings I wake up and put my feet on the ground and I feel sorry for myself because my body hurts and I know that the pain will likely continue throughout the rest of my pregnancy - and beyond. I don't see relief in the near future, and that makes me feel dissatisfied with my current situation.
I feel entitled to comfort.
I also feel entitled to a lot of others things. Health for my family. Harmonious relationships with my friends. A home that is beautiful. Control over my routine. Success in my job. Rest when I am weary. A healthy dose of fun. I'm a child of God, after all. Doesn't He see my suffering? Doesn't He hear my prayers? Doesn't He care if I'm happy?
When I don't receive the things that I believe I'm entitled to, they are all I can focus on. And their absence makes me feel angry, bitter, and resentful.
The fact that I believe I'm entitled to all of these things reveals a jarring truth about the state of my heart: It's nice knowing Jesus, yes, but I also want everything else. I want Jesus plus the entire world. In fact, if I have all the things I want in this world, I might even be satisfied without Jesus.
I feel like the Israelites that God talks about in Hosea. "I have been the Lord your God ever since the land of Egypt; you know no God but me, and no Savior exists besides me. I fed you in the wilderness, in the land of drought. When they had pasture, they became satisfied; they were satisfied, and their hearts became proud. Therefore they forgot me" (Hosea 13:4-6).
God loved the Israelites. He created the Israelites. He saved the Israelites from slavery. But when they got what they wanted in this world - what they felt entitled to - they promptly forgot about God. They weren't satisfied with all He did for them; they felt they deserved even more.
And don't I do the same thing? When I have those things that I desire - a body that moves without pain, a day to rest, a healthy family - am I turning back to God to give him thanks? No. Usually I am just taking them for granted, and thinking of all the other things in this world I still want.
This isn't the way I want to live. I don't believe this is the way any of us were meant to live.
There is an alternative. The alternative is believing that we are entitled to nothing. It's a little grating, isn't it? If it makes you want to stand up and point your finger and say, "Yes, but actually I work hard for..." or "I'm a good person so..." or "If God loved me He would...," don't worry... I'm standing right there next to you.
But I believe this alternative is actually the only way we'll ever be satisfied.
This alternative means looking to God and recognizing that He loved us before He even created us. It means acknowledging that He sees when we lie and when we lust and when we are prideful and when we are selfish, yet He does not turn away from us. It means humbling ourselves to accept that He sent Jesus to die for us, even though we didn't even know we needed a savior.
It means being utterly in awe of the fact that the Creator of the world calls us His children and made a way for us to spend all of eternity with Him in the most beautiful place imaginable.
It means waking up with gratitude each morning that we are not alone in this world that often feels scary and strange and isolating.
It means that instead of looking around at this world and counting all of the comforts we are lacking, we are turning to Jesus each morning when we rise and recognizing that He is the ultimate comfort. That when we have His comfort, we have the strength and the joy to make it through the day even with hurting bodies and breaking hearts.
Later in Hosea, God says this about the same Israelites who forgot about Him, "Why should he have anything more to do with idols? It is I who answer and watch over him. I am like a flourishing pine tree; your fruit comes from me" (Hosea 14:8).
I ask myself the same thing this morning. Why should I have anything more to do with the idols I have made for myself? Why should I cling so tightly to them, when doing so only leads to more dissatisfaction?
Though I am entitled to nothing, God has given me everything that I need, plus a whole lot more. And not only does my soul feel satisfied when I turn into Jesus instead of turning out to the world, it also feels wondrously, joyfully, and unbelievably thankful.