I have turned into somewhat of a food tyrant; in our house, it comes down to syrup. Because I won't buy it. "It's not healthy to start your day with a stomach full of sugar," I explain to them. "And peanut butter has protein and fat to start your day." And if you are going to start your day with sub-par store-bought waffles, then the least we can do is add some sort of nutritional gravy to it. It's not that I'm looking for ways to deny my children the things they want. I'm just trying to get them to see that maple syrup (don't get me started on table syrup) is not adding much in the way of a healthy start.
But we live in a time and place that has us all believing that not only do we want to start our day with syrup on our waffles, but that we deserve to start our day with syrup on our waffles. It's available to me at the store and I do have the $8 it costs to buy it, and it does taste good. So why should I not buy it?
It's not about syrup for me. I've (mostly...) cut sugar out of my diet and am happy without syrup. It fits for me. But I do believe that when I want a new rug under the kitchen table, I should go ahead and get one. I don't necessarily think it should be the most expensive (the sacrifice), but I do think I need a new one. Even if the old one still works.
So maybe it's not about syrup or rugs for some people. I have a list of wants that is a mile long and I'll keep adding to it because I like to dream. It includes a Houzz-worthy white kitchen (with reclaimed ceiling beams, obviously) and reclaimed walnut floors in the basement and marble counter tops in the bathroom. I think I'm worthy enough to actually deserve these things; why not? That doesn't mean I'll get them, but a part of me, albeit a small part, wonders why I should be denied the good things, whatever those good things might be. Chocolate. Hardwood floors. A prime spot at the front of the store. All things happy, all the time.
This week of Jennie Allen's study stuck was hard for me. I don't like hard. I don't mind introspective and thoughtful, but I don't like hard. Parenting is hard. Relationships are hard. Friendships? Hard. Being mad on the inside because I've (a) made up a list of deserved rights in my head, (b) been offended when that list is challenged or stepped on and then (c) being asked to give up my "rights" to said feelings of offense? Ha! OFFENSIVE.
"I'll have you know," I thought to myself this week. "That I'm not your biggest fan right now, Jennie Allen. I like my list of rights that I've made for myself and anyways My People and All The People should know better than to step on my list." The List, as follows (some items have been omitted to protect the reputation of the author):
1. Don't step on my toes. I'm sensitive.
2. Don't ask me to do anything out of my comfort zone. I don't like it.
3. Don't challenge me on what I deserve. Because I actually deserve it all.
4. Don't argue with me. Just don't.
5. Don't ask me to change. Because I probably won't.
I feel like it's a little bit of a touchy subject, this "What Do We Deserve" topic, because I think there are basic human rights that we are entitled to. But entitlement is a dangerous word, and it's bled into our lives like a slow drip IV, making me believe (with gusto) that the current bathtub situation that I must deal with every day (sniff) has got to change or I can't be happy. Which, among other things wrong with that example, means that I'm literally placing my happy in a bathtub, and I think you might agree that that doesn't make much sense. How can a bathtub determine my ultimate happiness? And yet. I think about it much more than what actually brings real joy, peace and real, actual goodness. Which is something I could use.
I find that when I focus on myself, and by default, all the things I want and need and deserve (and then demand), it actually takes away from the things that I really do value in my life, like creativity, peace, calm, organization, relationships, and gratitude. Those things are are life-giving to me, just like exercise is. They fill me up so that the things that do drain the well (like certain social engagements, which are sometimes killer for me) don't drain me to the point of no return. But focusing on myself takes away from those things, yet I do it with alarming regularity (and passion, I might add, since I am sometimes my very own most favorite person, hands down. And I do have the best ideas.).
So last week, when reading my study and discovering that the suggestion was to lay down my perceived rights, I was at first offended, and then mad. I found it laughable that someone else would suggest something as radical as offering to lay down one's own rights. No! I hold onto them with a tight fist, because if I don't fight for myself, who will?
Jesus wants our dignity to come from Him...
Do we trust Him to defend us if we stop
Do we trust Him to defend us if we stop
But then I, at the suggestion of a friend, bought a relationship book that we are going to read together, and it suggested laying down your rights. And then I read about laying down your rights during my quiet time on this very morning. And whether you just think three's a charm or repetition is God's way of getting your attention, I think it might merit just that. My attention.
It would be radical, wouldn't it, to adopt a lifestyle that says something about sacrifice. See, maple syrup isn't really a sacrifice for me, and really, neither is not getting the perfect rug for under my kitchen table. I want those things, but don't really care enough about them to get really worked up over them. (Well, sometimes maple syrup gets me worked up, but that's another story for another day.) The point is, I don't feel any internal struggle when I'm debating either of those things. It's not really a sacrifice for me, really, to give up on the Quest For A New Rug. What does cause much internal chaos is when someone says something as radical as give up your perceived right to not getting your toes stepped on, because (a) you're not that sensitive and (b) you don't really deserve it in the first place. It is here that I'm stopped in my tracks, and here that I'm doubly offended that someone would even suggest such a thing. And here that I have to stop and think why. Why am I so afraid of this? Why do I think I deserve it all, no questions asked? Why do I think everyone else should deal with getting their toes getting stepped on, their beliefs challenged, their habits changed, their forgiveness withheld, their motives questioned, but not me? And yet I rise with an indignation performance worthy of an Oscar at the mere thought of being placed in such a position.
Christ laid down all his rights, put on a cloak of humility, and was beaten and hung on a cross, so that I (and you and everybody) could be forgiven and free. The real sacrifice was done for me, so I could live in freedom, but also so I could live in a way that shows what Christ did for me. So in a way, I'm living for Christ and not for for myself, and while this goes against every selfish grain in my being, it's what I believe. So it's my responsibility to show love, and that's love for others, not for myself. And to show forgiveness and humility and that happiness can be found beyond bathtubs and All The Things (seriously, sometimes I do want All The Things).
God doesn't tell us never to get angry. God's call is that we be slow to anger because He knows we are so easily offended. And in doing this we live like God: "The LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness" (Exodus 34:6).
If Christ, laying down His rights, justified so few reasons on this planet to respond with anger, how many can we justify?
Let's pick our fights wisely.