Entitlement is one big-fat-dirty-S.O.B. of a word. As cocky parents we somehow suppose we’ve mastered this four-letter offender and shudder to think any “entitled” child would graduate from our fold.
Grandparents sigh wistfully as they recount how they started with nothing and rose from the ashes, pulling themselves up bootstrap after laborious bootstrap.
Heads shake, eyes roll and tongues tisk when we hear someone between the ages of 8 and 85 stake claim on a proverbial piece of pie that ought to be coming their way. Just who do they think they are, we criticize. Don’t they know money doesn’t grow on trees? (In this country it kind of does, but I’ll save that for another breath).
I once heard someone I love reflect on raising kids in this manner, “I want my kids to grow up thinking they’re poor.”
I literally had no words. My thoughts raced. My blood boiled. My heart sat confounded. Apparently living in a false sense of reality is the way to enlightenment.
Poor?! Are you kidding me? We live in the wealthiest country on the planet. Our kids have access to abundant education, private lessons, decked out sports teams, cable television, entertainment at the touch of a button, creature comforts extraordinaire… I could go on, but I might blow a gasket.
I KNOW I am rich. I KNOW I don’t deserve it and for that, I am forever humbled.
Yesterday, Wess Stafford, President of Compassion International preached at our church. That guy always knows how to bring it home and yesterday was no exception. He joked that his job is to walk the delicate line between comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comforted — dare I say, comfortable.
And yes, friends, that is me. I am comfortable and I know it.
If you woke up today and had something to eat, you are wealthy.
If you slept in a bed, under a roof, you are wealthy.
If you have access to clean water, you are wealthy.
If you wake up everyday and see the United States of America out your front door, you are wealthy.
I am wealthy. This is a cold hard fact. And the truth is, I have not done one single solitary thing to deserve it.
Just this week I had the privileged gift of sailing on the Sea Cloud II off the shores of Central America. We set sail from Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica eating and drinking our way through Pacific waters, snorkeling with white-tipped reef shark, marveling at magnificent sea turtles, laughing as playful dolphins surfed along the wake of our ship. I checked off a bucket list item I didn’t even know was on my bucket list! Transiting the Panama Canal.
By every account, this was the trip of a lifetime.
As we sailed and soaked in the beauty and wonder of God’s creation, I couldn’t help but ache for more. The sights and sounds were astounding, overwhelming and glorious. The company of Young Life friends both old and new was life-giving to my soul. The laughter and the wine both flowed freely. Definitely no problems there! But I couldn’t shake the ache for more.
How could I be so selfish as to want more from this time? Wasn’t the Lord’s overwhelming giftof a vacation with my husband extravagant enough?
Absolutely and amen! I am a grateful soul.
But it wasn’t until I stepped off the boat and found myself on a bus, winding through the streets of Panama City that the ache began to find a name.
As we stepped off the bus into the heart of Panama Viejo – a humble and by all accounts poor and potentially dangerous neighborhood – with beads of sweat dripping down my back, my mind began to come into focus. I was about to see the juxtaposition of this crazy, beautiful, wonderful messed-up world through God’s lens. Face to face. Mano a mano. Oh what a gift!
A crowd of bright-faced, eager newly crowned Panamanian Young Life leaders greeted us with applause as we stood on the humble stoop of Enrique’s home.
Material wealth aside, I knew the love that flowed freely from the hearts of these leaders, pioneering this ministry out of reckless abandon for God and country, was more luxurious than anything money could buy.
Their passion was palpable as we walked the streets together, shaking hands, giving hugs and connecting in broken Spanish through the love of our Lord. Shy teenage girls smiled at the words “Vida Joven”. Mothers and fathers spoke of the sweet change in attitude expressed by their “entitled” teenagers returning home after a night at Young Life club. Pictures were taken and the Spirit exchanged among us spoke more than a thousand words.
The God who formed us from the dust of the earth created us to linger together in that moment. The Americas coming together in unity of Spirit.
“This God made us in all our diversity from one original person, allowing each culture to have its own time to develop, giving each its own place to live and thrive in its distinct ways. His purpose in all this was that people of every culture and religion would search for this ultimate God, grope for Him in the darkness, as it were, hoping to find Him. Yet, in truth, God is not far from any of us. For you know the saying, ‘We live in God; we move in God; we exist in God.'” (Acts 17:26-28, The Voice)
We exist to have our being in Him. No matter color, class, culture or creed – we are His.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)
Perhaps it is this extravagance of worldy wealth that keeps me from truly experiencing his Kingdom – tethered between two worlds.
But here I sit.
Praying for poverty of Spirit, surrounded by a world of wealth.
“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field — and to get the treasure, too!” (Matthew 13:44)
The pie is mine and I get to eat it too!
Once again straddling this holy paradox.
Both richer AND poorer.
May it be for HIS glory.