I have to be honest. This is one of the hardest seasons of my life. So much has transpired in 2015. The first day of the year started with our shower and toilet backing up and overflowing into the bathroom. No biggie right? The next day our heat and air unit completely died and needed replacing. A week later one of our cars irreparably broke down and we needed to buy a new car. Three weeks later my father passed away. Around the same time, The Lord called me away from full time paid ministry and a little more than a month after my dad passed I left the ministry. This was particularly hard because, until that point I was completely convinced I’d be in full time ministry for the foreseeable future.
My job search in the meantime has extended way beyond the length of time I expected – it’s a slim market out there for a guy with a degree in Biblical Theology & Ministry. Due to many interviews that ended with the phrase, “It was hard, but we’ve decided to pursue more qualified candidates”, I am still waiting to settle up on a new career as I write this post. In addition to this, all of my sin patterns have risen to the surface due my tendency to trust more in myself than in God. My marriage is being stretched daily as we learn to trust God for financial provision, emotional provision, familial stability, etc. To say my family and I are being refined is an understatement.
What’s your Image of God?
Let me clarify, I am not complaining. Not at all. It’s true that there have been moments where I felt God was being harsh and distant. It’s been hard to trust Him this year, but, I am beginning to see that God has good things in mind for me and my family through all the ups and downs we’ve experienced. But here’s what I am learning the most through all of this: I am entitled.
Entitlement can be defined as the belief that I deserve something because of my accomplishments, avoidance of wrong, place in society, or simply because “I’m me”. Entitlement says, “I deserve ________!” It’s saying: “Hey, do you know who I am? I’m kind of a big deal.” And when I get what I don’t think I deserve, entitlement kicks and screams.
I have told myself repeatedly that I do not deserve this season of life, that it’s too difficult and God needs to ease up some. My broken view of who God is has everything to do with how I view life right now. I have a tendency to believe that in seasons of discipline and discomfort I deserve less pressure than I am experiencing; likewise, I believe that in seasons where I avoid sin for long periods of time means I deserve more goodness and blessing. In both accounts, God should be at my beckon prayer, right?
Both of these views have to do with personal entitlement – I deserve less or more. This is where I struggle the most.
Children and their Parents – Parents and their God
Do you resonate with these feelings and out of line beliefs? Do you ever notice that children are this way? I have a 2.5 year old daughter and I have observed the exact same things I just described in her relationship with me. She wants out of time out when she disobeys, but she also wants the whole bag of marshmallows instead of only 3. She is naturally entitled – aren’t we all? She regularly feels that my discipline is over the top as well as that my offering of gifts needs her guidance or readjustment. She quickly shouts the words, “I want to listen and obey,” when she has disobeyed as though all I am after is a verbal recognition of wrong. As her father, I don’t want lip service – I want character change and a deep trust in her daddy; trusting that my guidance (through discipline and gifts alike) is rooted in my love for her and care for her well-being.
Wait a second…could it be then that God wants the same for me? If not the same for me then MORE for me than I can fathom wanting for my children. Isn’t it crazy how easily we can observe how you and I relate to God by looking at the natural condition of our children? I may not fall on the floor screaming at God – at least not when someone’s looking – but my heart posture quickly grows suspect of His goodness in seasons of suffering and discipline. Again, my entitlement leads me to believe I know what’s best and anything to the contrary must be wrong or downright of hell itself.
Killing the Entitlement Monster
Parenting has taught me so much about myself through this process. The little creatures in my home are flesh and blood pictures of my relationship with God. I have come to believe that engaging my children’s sense of entitlement is an act of engaging in my own. As I lead my family through discipline or gifts I am learning not only what it looks like to be led by God, but also that it is a good thing for my Father to engage my sense of ‘deservedness’ as well.
I will grow in my trust of God’s discipline in seasons of hardship as I teach my children to so the same. It’s almost like this is the design or something… Why? Because I see that my willful inflicting of discipline and hardship in the life of my children is rooted in my love for them, not in my desire to destroy them. If God can trust me with my children, why can’t He be trusted with His?
Entitlement kicks and screams, both in my home and in my heart until I accept that the process of parenting and following God are connected; they feed into one another. My Father teaches me how to be a father as I trust that He knows what is best for me. It is precisely this process that kills entitlement and replaces it with humility and trust.
May God bless you with hope this week as He uses your own children to lead your entitled heart into trusting your Father and teaching your children to do the same.