Thursday, October 17, 2013

All I Deserve

You deserve clean bathrooms.  

When we were on our cross-country trip, I saw this slogan many times at a particular type of truck stop.

Now, let me get one thing clear:  I like clean bathrooms.

But seriously.  Do I deserve clean bathrooms?  Is this an unalienable right?

I've noticed that we as Americans have this obsession with what we deserve.

Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back.
Because I'm worth it. 
Sometimes you  have to forget what you want to remember what you deserve.  
I have to do what's best for me right now.
You deserve a break today.
The change you deserve.

It is completely ingrained in us.  Ingrained in me.  Down to the basic worldview level, we don't even realize how deeply we believe this concept until we spend time in another culture.

There were many times in Tanzania when I was forced to come face to face with my deeply held beliefs of what I deserve.
I would get angry when I wasn't given good customer service, especially when I was paying for something.
I would be infuriated when someone would deliberately cut in front of me in line or cut me off on the road.
I would rant and rave when the power would go out for seemingly no reason.

All of these things happened on a daily basis.  Now, it's true that I would rarely express this anger verbally.  But inside, I would seethe.  I wasn't the only one.  At our mission prayer meetings, a regular request was for anger issues.

Tanzanians are some of the most friendly, generous, hospitable people I have ever met.  But they were a socialist country for 30 years, so customer service is not the norm.  Their culture has different rules on waiting in line or what is acceptable on the road.

And I noticed:  Tanzanians are rarely bothered by these things.  They are content.  They are peace-loving.  They have been raised to be community-oriented instead of focused on what they individually deserve.

I finally began to ask myself:  Why do I deserve customer service?  Why I do deserve regular electricity?  Why do I deserve to have my place in line?

Because I don't.

Honestly, I deserve death.  I deserve God's judgment.  That's really all I deserve, and since I've been given life and grace, is there really anything else I really need--let alone deserve?

I know there's a fine line here.  I believe in having high expectations in people and helping them do their best. I believe that fighting against injustice and oppression is usually a worthy pursuit.  I believe that every person has value because we are created in the image of God.

But.  I am seeking to override that mentality that my American society has hard-wired into me:  that I deserve relationships that don't wear me out, opportunity to "follow my heart," healthy children, "me time," my own home filled with things that make me happy, vacations, physical beauty, and even clean bathrooms at a truck stop.....and I have a right to be angry when I don't get those things.

...in humility value others above yourselves. (Philippians 2:3)

I'd like to see some American company use that as a slogan.

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