I’ve been wrestling a monster for a very long time.
Over the years, I’ve given it various nicknames. Mostly because I never saw my monster face to face. The best I could do is guess what it was based on how it made me feel when we battled it out.
I have given it the name Anxiety. Depression. Anger. Frustration. Infertility. Grief.
I thought I had the right name for my monster.
You might wonder if names even matter. I get it … And they do.
If I were fighting for my life against a real-life monster, it would be enormously helpful to know if I were trying to survive an attack by a 20-foot great white shark … Or a grizzly bear.
Rolling over and pretending to be dead would do nothing to dissuade the shark. (And if it DID dissuade the shark, I’d likely still drown.) And bopping a grizzly on the nose would be as useless as just serving myself up on a platter for dinner.
And so, as it turns out, spiritual monsters also need names.
Thinking you are fighting discontentment when you are actually struggling with greed will not give you the tools and accountability you need to emerge the winner from the fight.
Unless I find out what I’m actually up against, I’m never going to overcome.
In my Self-Care post, I mentioned that I’m reading the book “Anything” by Jennie Allen.
Toward the beginning of the book, she names a brutal monster many of us privileged American Christians face.
What makes it so brutal is it’s uncanny ability to blind us from what (Who) we really need.
It simultaneously tells us to take joy in what we have … While robbing us of the sense of peace or contentment based on what we own.
While we are to be grateful for what we have, JOY should never be wrapped up in titles, vacations, stuff, achievements, or even other people.
Joy has to exist with or without all the “stuff” of life. And the monster of deceit who tries to convince us otherwise goes by the name Entitlement.
Now when Jennie named this monster, I was ready to tune out.
You see, I feel I’ve worked for everything I have. I went to school, and have been earning money in some capacity since I was 12.
When I got my driver’s license (1 month before I turned 18), I only did so because I had enough money to pay for the license, gas and monthly insurance on the car.
In high school, I was responsible for buying my own clothes and makeup (which is pretty obvious from my pictures.)
I was always taught to give as much as you can, pay for your own way, and be responsible for YOU.
I truly didn’t think entitlement was a monster I had even met, let alone wrestled with for years. After all, I worked for everything. Right?
But as Jennie progressed through her discourse, I discovered that my monster who had been wrestling me and stealing my joy was none other than a sense of entitlement that I deserve more … Just because I’m me.
Here’s what my entitlement has looked like:
I deserve to have a baby whenever I want. (Because why exactly? Because I’m Rachel? Because I’m a good parent? Because I’m a decent-ish person? When did raising another human being become a reward for good behavior?)
Why do I always have to give my babies back? (Newsflash: I don’t. God has let me keep two of them, which is two more than some people get.)
I shouldn’t have to give Z back because I love him like a son. (My role as a foster parent comes with no legal claims. I might love him and care for him as my son, but God — nor the State — have any obligation to keep Z in our home.)
I’ve spent 7 years in my business. I should be making X amount each month, be driving X car, or earning X trip. (The truth is, in my business you are paid on results. If I have not done the work to see the results, that is on me and no one else. No matter the time I have put in. If God is using this time to mold me into the leader and person He desires me to be FIRST, before the title and huge leadership come, that is His choice to make. It’s rather my job to be faithful in the day-to-day in my business that He has called me to — no matter the time frame or results.)
Anything about our house.
(Since we got pregnant with Maddy, we have lived in a rental home. It’s a great little home, that meets all our needs. AND YET… It doesn’t meet all my wants. I don’t want a bathroom with steel trim, no bathtub and a floor that refuses to look clean no matter how much I mop it. I don’t want white tile counter tops with white grout that is stained, and worn and has eroded so it is impossible to get it really clean. I don’t want gold trim, white walls and a rock floor.
Somehow, I have believed the lie that I deserve to own a beautiful home, with a gorgeous interior and decor, in a safe neighborhood with good schools –and let’s just add in a water view, just because.)
All of this I have felt I deserved … No believed with my whole heart that I deserved … Just because I’m me.
When I follow entitlement to its logical conclusions, that means other people must deserve war, sickness, poverty, lack of opportunity, children dying, cancers, divorce and death … Just because they are who they are.
And if they are getting what they “deserve” … Why should I reach out and help them in their distress?
When I turn entitlement on its head, only then do I see it’s ugliness, it’s raw banality. Only then do I see myself for the fool that I have been.
I have heard that gratitude is the best cure for entitlement. And I have tried wielding thankfulness like a sword, slashing carelessly at my monster with appreciation for more stuff.
“Thank you for this pen I’m using because it serves me when I need to write something down.”
“Thank you for this shower because it serves me when I want to be clean.”
“Thank you for this home because it serves me by protecting me and the people/things I care about.”
See how it’s still all about me?
Gratitude is necessary. In fact, God calls us to it.
Gratitude is not wrong. It’s right. But until I get rid of the “thanks for serving ME” mentality … It’s lacking.
No gratitude is not enough. Too often we still root it in stuff. Rather than rooting it in who God is.
Submission, on the other hand, prepares our hearts for true gratitude and rids us of entitlement.
I live in this home because the God of the universe has provided me shelter and protection out of the goodness and generosity of his heart.
I have the children I do because God looked upon me with compassion, and graciously allowed me to keep (for now), these children.
I have infertility because God has sorted through the enemy’s arrows, and has allowed this one to pierce my life. While I can’t understand or see it at times, God will use this as an instrument of his glory. And in that, I give him thanks.
Gratitude, only when rooted in submission, can take our eyes from the stuff we want — can take our joy in the things we deserve to have — and place them on the true satisfaction of our souls: God Himself.
Entitlement: an ugly monster what tells us what we deserve because of who we are.
Submissive gratitude: a beautiful surrender to the will of God with thankfulness and joy — regardless of the the circumstances, the titles you bear or the stuff you own — all because of WHO He is.