Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Mountain of Entitlement vs. the Trench of Persecution

Entitlement - a big word....full of ugly....It's the idea that I deserve something just for being, or for being good, or for doing whatever.... it's the "I worked hard today so I am entitled to...fill in the blank - a pedicure, a warm bath, some other luxury." Or, "I helped people today so I deserve to be alone now." Its ideas like "I worked out today so I deserve a brownie (or 2) or a new outfit." Its the thought of, "I accomplished such and such and I deserve some praise"....oooooo - now we're going deep - deeper than the desire for a brownie, at least.... However shallow the thought or desire, it's entitlement either way. And entitlement is exactly what Lucifer was cast out of heaven for - his belief that he deserved praise - a.k.a. glory.  Sometimes - for me - I don't see it as wanting glory... I mean - going back to the brownie - what glory is in eating a brownie?  But the brownie is reward, is it not? Why do I think I am owed a pat on the back or a reward. When the Psalmist says, "there is nothing good in the heart of the man" it really means not-one-thing...unless God puts it there - which means it wasn't my doing after why do I want the reward?   

The American culture feasts on the spirit of entitlement. Every commercial jingle has a hint of "you deserve this" in it. So how do I root it out of me?....I don't fully know. I think (but maybe I'm wrong) that somehow it would be easier in another culture - but then I'd probably be (in my ugly flesh) thinking - "I am adapting to this new culture and it's so hard so I deserve....". 

The Spirit and the Word have been showing me this thread of ugly in my life. It runs deep in the thought of, "I am adopting from Ethiopia so I deserve a referral now." But, the desire in me to adopt did not come from me nor is it about me so why am I entitled to a quickened process? Well, I'm not. Period.

If everything good is from above then there is no place for my glory robbing, my want for words of affirmation and adoration. Those things belong to my Lord, Jesus Christ alone.

Entitlement is a mountain. On top of it is a life of luxury and ease that, it seems, most of us yearn for and work toward. But what happens when God decides it is time for me to endure persecution? If I am on the mountain of entitlement I will not be equipped to face it. The love for ease and things will far surpass the love of following Jesus to the smelliest, dirtiest places - like prison or the streets - and the love of sharing Jesus with the people He longs to know him.

In pondering the news of the struggles in Israel and talking with a friend about the signs of the end times coming I am more convinced than ever that I am to train my daughter in such a way that she will be able to endure the worst persecution. Of course, I do not want ANY of that for her, the heartache and pain of it. But, it seems, that her generation will indeed face increasing opposition to Jesus.

But how do I train her well.... that is what I'm begging God to show me. She is only three, after all. The only (well, one of the only) thing I know to do for now is teach her more than "Jesus loves me" and focus also on Jesus loves the nations - all of them - every tribe, every tongue, every stranger, every language group. That means her love story with Jesus is about more than just her. There is a cause in the form of the God-Man Jesus to live for that can impact as small as a world as her own or as large as a world as God's. So which is she going to live mindful of - her own perceived entitlements or the heart of God who is entitled to her obedience and praise and life and service no matter the cost. 

Tuesday nights with our Somali friends will soon begin again. Serving and teaching the Somalis English and life/culture lessons is not always easy. It messes up my routine, frankly. When I take Libby I am constantly concerned because of the location in which we meet. It is not always easy to focus on the Somali people as I scan the field for my daughter's happy face. Libby goes to bed late - really late - every Tuesday night. And every Wednesday morning we struggle with Libby's weary whining. But, on the flip-side, she is walking into "Africa" only 30 minutes from home and surrounded by a culture completely different than her own. She plays with them just like she would play with one of her Chinese friends. And this unusual site of a Chinese girl playing with Somali Bantu is just the kind of normal I want for her - the kind that she grows up with and never thinks is unusual.

As I have been sizing up what our calling to the Somali's looks like and how best to serve them as a family I have been considering what entitlements God will have to strip away for my heart to really engage with the Somali people. What if we are supposed to spend more than one night with them each week? What if that leaves less time for my routines or what if it messes up Libby's schedule making her mood swings my problem? Am I entitled to a schedule that keeps my daughter happy for my sake? What if I'm supposed to give one of the Somali families my phone number so they can call me at any time day or night? Would I be okay with that? Could I keep my sanity and wrap my family life around a family of 8 or 10 poor, needy, and sometimes demanding and manipulative people? If we are called to the family with the youngest and wildest children would I still invite them into my home? Am I entitled to a clean house and undamaged sentimental items? Would I be okay if one of the children walked around my house with a buttery corn on the cob in his hands looking for a piece of fabric (of any sort) to wipe his buttery fingers on? Oh, how pitiful am I!!! I mean it! This is not a point I am making for anyone but wretched am I?

A Voice of the Martyrs magazine arrived in my mailbox today. I sat in the tub tonight reading the first article in it. It talked about people in countries all over the world - but specifically Iran and India - who have joyfully embraced the trench of persecution. The writer of the article was sharing the stories of these beautiful believers but also focusing on the fact that "Opportunity for...witness exists everyday, whether or not there is persecution." He goes on to say, "If we lack faith, we fear opposition."  But why do we fear opposition? Because there is something we don't want to lose/give up - meaning, we feel entitled to something - good health, no broken bones, a college education, a life of freedom outside of prison, cleanliness, privacy...this list could go on and on. 

Below this article/letter to the readers was a picture of a card with another language written all over it. What I read in the caption next to it almost made my heart stop. It read, "Radical Hindus in Orissa State, India distributed this notice before a rally against Christians. It says, 'In order to make it a grand success, you all are requested to please come and join the rally with all your traditional weapons, like arrow, axe, spear, sword, etc.'" 

Faced with that kind of opposition would I feel entitled to justify denying Christ for the sake of protecting my daughter? Oh, please Lord, give me the strength of my fellow believers in India! Their houses are burned and they have nothing - not even a future, except.... they know the reality of heavenly reward and eternal life and live in the light of that. 

So, this is where I am in my thoughts... the mountain of entitlement both in me and in our culture will not provide me/my family with the tools, the endurance or the wisdom needed to accept the persecution that will one day come. So I must - and all who love Jesus must - find a way to walk, roll, repel or dive off the mountain of entitlement and begin finding the path along the trench in which to train our minds, bodies and souls for the opposition so we can be found faithful to the end. And I'm just asking God to continually remind me and show me what that looks like. Any thoughts and ideas on how to develop this entitlement-free living are welcome. I know there is a balance in it all. I know that God enjoys my enjoying his creation and - yes, even brownies... but, oh to go deeper into his heart and find enjoyment in the learning of how to suffer for his name sake instead of glowing in reward. The ashy faces of the pastors in an India prison glow (most likely) far more than the one with a recent facial and manicured feet. If only my eyes and heart could be trained to see all that is opposite of this world's ways.