Friday, October 29, 2010

What I Deserve

But God is rich in mercy because of his great love for us. We were dead because of our failures, but he made us alive together with Christ. (It is God’s kindness[a] that saved you.) God has brought us back to life together with Christ Jesus and has given us a position in heaven with him. He did this through Christ Jesus out of his generosity to us in order to show his extremely rich kindness in the world to come. God saved you through faith as an act of kindness. You had nothing to do with it. Being saved is a gift from God. It’s not the result of anything you’ve done, so no one can brag about it.   Footnotes:  a. Ephesians 2:5 Or “grace.”  (Ephesians 2:4-9, GWT)

Okay, show of hands -- How many of you have said more than once in your times of trial, "I don't deserve this!"  If you raised your hand (and I hardly think you're in touch with your human frailty if you didn't), you're certainly not alone.  There is no way that we, in our right human minds, would think we deserve anything but life's best. 

Here's how the thinking goes, at least for me.  I've worked hard all my life.  I haven't killed anyone.  I'm a good person.  I've been through a lot.  I'm entitled to better than this.  A good God wouldn't allow me to suffer like this.  I deserve a break.

But when I exchange my "right human mind" for God's way of thinking, I see different.  I realize that I am in no position to be thinking I deserve anything but shame and punishment.

Before you roll your eyes and bug out, track with me on this one.  You see, I was a person who lived fast and loose in life.  I was a party girl.  College was one big blur filled with things you would never want your child doing.  I married a drummer in a local band.  After miscarrying a baby, our marriage fell apart, both of us straying and choosing divorce.  I found the man of my dreams and ended up marrying again, living the good life.  We had it all -- a lake house, tropical vacations and wild parties with our friends.  But then, three years into our marriage, I miscarried another baby.  This ended up being a turning point in my life as stunned, I thought, What did I ever do to deserve this?  It resulted in me softening enough to attend a Bible study one night.  I felt like the veil had lifted from my eyes at that study, and I became a Jesus follower from that point on.

Now, you'd think that would be the happy ending to my story, but it's not.  I thought, as so many of us foolishly do, that my life would get easier once I became a committed Christian.  It was quite the opposite.  From that point forward, the trials flooded rather than trickled in.  We discovered that we had an infertility issue and had great difficulty conceiving children.  "Stupid human tricks", as I call them, were needed to grant us both our eldest and our middle children.  My husband experienced 5 episodes of joblessness over a stretch of only 7 years through no fault of his own.  Hemophilia entered our lives along with the birth of our second child.  And severe allergies, ADHD, SPD and, who knows what else, continue to parade in with our third child.  Ironically, that third child came from a high risk pregnancy where I had to be off my feet for the last 4 months before delivery.  We've grieved the death of both of my in-laws, and said goodbye to a number of good friends who have left this world too early.  Each of these things leaving us traumatized and feeling that this was far less than what we deserve.

But the truth of the matter is that we deserve hell.  You see, even our worst suffering has been better than that, filled with laughter even in the midst of tears.  And we were people who marched through life, gossiping, having sex outside of marriage, cheating on our taxes, lying when it benefited us and being utterly self-centered.  God tells us in His word that this is sin, and He is so good that He can't be anywhere near that.  As I have grown in my faith walk, I have seen how undeserving I am of all the blessings He has lavished upon me (see 1 John 3:1).  As I often tell my hubby, the uglier I am willing to admit I am, the more beautiful God looks!  When I come to the realization of how awful my sin is, Jesus' sacrifice on the cross for me becomes even more amazing!

A side benefit to this is that, in light of what I truly deserve, I realize my problems are smaller.  You might laugh to hear that I talk to God in the shower each morning.  (Hey, where else can a busy mom find complete solitude?)  As I was getting cleaned up before yet another hospital run recently, the thought crossed my mind, I don't deserve this.  But this time, the thought came from a position of being undeserving instead of entitled.  I thought, I don't deserve this wonderful hot water running over my head when there are so many in the world who don't even have a safe home.  I don't deserve this refreshing soap and shampoo when there are people who are getting cholera from bathing in a filthy river.  I don't deserve this warm towel, these warm clothes when there are people only 30 miles away from me living under bridges, freezing at night.  Suddenly, God's goodness to me was far more overwhelming than any  hospital visit could be.

 
What do I deserve?  I deserve to have been the one on that cross.  I deserve hell.  But what do I get?  I get a loving, merciful God who allowed me to be born in a country where my kids get the medical care they need, food on the table, clothes on their back and a roof over their heads.  I deserve that crucifixion, but Jesus took it in my place and gave me eternal joy!  I deserve a crown of thorns, but God has made me His princess.  Wow!  How blessed am I!  How about you?

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