Sunday, May 24, 2009

It's Not Fair!

This may be one of those entries that’s best passed over. I have a feeling I’m going to be long-winded today. I use my blog as a way of clarifying my thoughts and sorting things out in my mind and right now I have a lot of thoughts about something going on with Sierra. Really though, it’s a pretty universal struggle—certainly nothing to which I’m immune.

Sierra came home from school on Thursday in a really, really bad mood. There were even tears involved. According to her, it just wasn’t fair. She goes to a very small private school and there is a girl who she believes has advantages that she doesn’t. She has a wealthy grandmother who takes her on shopping sprees and gives her whatever she wants. She has parents who let her do whatever she wants. She told Sierra she couldn’t believe she’d never been on a shopping spree and just that day, instead of doing her work, she played games with the older kids. In tears Sierra told me how hard she’d worked, all day, only to see her friend goof off. It wasn’t fair.

How many times do we hear that with kids? IT’S NOT FAIR! So I thought for a minute. I know the “advantages” she’s describing aren’t advantages at all. These kinds of things can easily become crippling. But Sierra’s smart. She knows that being allowed to do whatever you want, when you’re a kid, can lead to stupid behavior. And she knows that shopping sprees, while probably fun, are not the be all and end all of existence. Where she was really stuck was in her anger that this friend got to play while she had to work. That she was getting away with something. I had to help her see that it wasn’t her problem unless she made it hers.

I’ve been reading The Peacegiver by James L. Ferrell and this problem reminded me of his discussion of Jonah. I asked her what she could tell me about it. She looked at me incredulously, then told me about his unwillingness to follow the Lord’s directions and preach to the Ninevites. That he was swallowed by a huge fish and that even though he preached to them after that, he was hoping God would strike them down. What’s that got to do with me? Plenty.

I wanted her to get, first of all, that nothing her friend had done, none of the “privileges” she was enjoying took a thing away from her or in any way made her burden heavier. They weren’t even working on a project together so really, nothing. The second thing I wanted her to get was the most important part. I wanted her to understand that by allowing herself to feel anger toward this person or even the situation she was hurting only herself.

We have this habit, probably most of us, of feeling entitled, deserving. Feeling superior to people who maybe don’t do things the way we think they should. In Jonah 2:8 we read, “They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy”. All of these feelings of entitlement and superiority are lying vanities. I asked her to remember how the story ended. She didn’t remember that it ends with God asking Jonah this question: “And should not I spare Nineveh?”

Okay, so what? Well, if Jonah answered ‘yes’, it changes everything for him. Us too. Not because we’re suddenly perfect but because we’ve stopped expecting others to be. We start seeing that others need mercy too. The bottom line is that we’re all unworthy and only through God’s mercy do we have a hope of anything but hell. Jonah, and all of us, can become totally new people, free from the grip of sin, if we stop feeling entitled and start feeling grateful. When we stop taking everyone else’s inventory and start taking our own.

I have these thoughts and they’re hard to express clearly to a 10 year old. Hard for me to express at all. In the book Ferrell asks these questions:
1) Are you demanding justice and denying mercy?
2) Are you sitting belligerently under the sticks of your own grudges?

If the answers are yes, we’re forgetting the mercies extended to us; denying them to others. I just want her to know it’s okay for people to be where they are. To have their own struggles, their own circumstance, even if we’d do things differently. It’s okay to just love people where they are. Not just okay but totally mandatory.
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