I missed seeing fireworks yesterday. I was bummed. Near where I live there is a park on the water that prides itself on the myriad of festivals it celebrates – the biggest one being an annual harbor festival that commemorates something to do with boats (I obviously don’t attend in a supportive role – more for the snow cones. Who doesn’t love a good snow cone?). This year, the grand illumination of fireworks for the “boats are awesome” party was cancelled due to weather. We were instead promised a spectacular display of grandeur at the 4th of July Festival as the two explosive presentations would be combined. But last night when thunderclouds flooded the sky and a guy enthusiastically sarcastically marveled at my bravery while I rode my bike home under the lightening infested curtain above me, I was certain another set of fireworks were being begrudgingly disassembled. At 9:30, while sitting at home on my couch watching a rather lame movie, I heard the distant booms and pouted for the remainder of my evening.
And what, you say, does this have anything to do with entitlement? Well, really nothing. I just wanted to grumble for a moment. Or does it….(wink, wink)?
I lay in bed reading the status updates on my Facebook page and couldn’t help but wonder something. What would we be writing if our freedom were not a reality? What if we were under the siege of captivity, at war with a neighboring country, prisoners at the mercy of a malicious dictator, or homeless refugees seeking asylum in makeshift tent cities built on foreign soil? I am blessed to have a solid social network comprised of a lot of God-fearing individuals and the many statements I read last night included themes of joy for the blessing of our independence. This is a wonderful thing to praise God for – no doubt! However, I can’t help wondering if that level of joy would compare survive in a country where things like freedom and prosperity were not present to be celebrated but even more so…were not expected.
Last night I sat reflecting on my gratitude for “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” (which lasted all of 15 seconds) and in all honesty there wasn’t any tiny ounce of me that marveled at the graciousness of this gift. No, my half-ass thankfulness was offered up with an air of privilege. “Thank you God for freedom, although I wouldn’t expect it any other way.” And it’s what I expect because it’s what I know. I’ve had the fortunate opportunity to visit several third world countries and the expectations are so vastly different because what they know is poles apart from the experience of the average American. They expect things like losing loved ones (often children), dying young, and going without food or clean water. Yet, I saw joy in their eyes that often far exceeds the joy I experience on any given day. They probably wouldn’t pout if they didn’t see fireworks.
I’m not writing these things to evoke guilt or shame celebration. I think it is extremely important to enjoy and express gratitude for the blessings we receive, such as the opportunity to experience freedom and democracy and to recognize that God has placed us where we are for a purpose. It’s just equally important to remember any and everything we receive beyond what we deserve is a gift.
What’s the motivation behind entitlement? Thinking it’s what we deserve.
And the reality is – what we deserve is death (Romans 3:23).
So, how do we fight the vicious claws of entitlement? We behave according to reality – that everything we receive above and beyond death is a gracious offering. For some reason celebrities accepting ridiculous awards (that I admittedly tune in to watch every year) comes to mind right now. They’re always saying things like, “Wow, I don’t deserve this.” “Oh! I don’t know what to say, I’m so humbled.” No one ever says, “Yeah, no surprise here!” and then gracefully exits stage left. Just imagine what our world would look like if we approached and responded to each day with this attitude: