The Outside Looking In

This is a re-post of a note I published November 28, 2014 on Facebook. I am transferring my notes from Facebook into my Float the River blog.

It was an interesting day of observation and interaction yesterday as I stood on the other side of the counter at Walmart. My part in the unfolding drama of the day was in some respects distant and removed, the Observer who was able to watch a microcosm of life play out. On the other hand, being intricately involved in the interactions of the lives of people who crowded themselves into the aisles of the sporting goods department hoping to cash in on a “deal”.

While the occasion for this was the Thanksgiving Day blowout sales event of the year, it really truly has nothing to do with that at all.

Not one bit.

It was merely a context ripe with the opportunity for the core values of people to rise to the surface and reveal what really drives us. Within a very short amount of time while trying to assist people in getting the $29 life-changing item of their dreams (yes, $29…seriously) two remarkably powerful beliefs manifested themselves in living color.

The first and probably most foundational belief that I observed yesterday was, “I am entitled”.

Our first wave of craziness was slated to begin at 6:00 pm. Armed with the promise that spending $29 and getting in line early enough to guarantee getting something that would make life wonderful, people began lining up at my register as early as 3:00. My entire department was filled to over-flowing well before the magic moment began and everyone was filled with the expectation they would get what they came for. The reality was though, only a certain number of people were going to be able to lay claim to the $29 bliss. After two hours of selling that one item (and nothing else) it became clear that not everyone was going to be able to buy one. The attitude of those not getting the fulfillment of their desires was perfectly summed up with the statement of one particular mom when she very angrily stated, “I have stood in this line for over 2 hours and I deserve one. This is wrong!”

We have been taught and we continue to cling to the non-existent promise that if I “do” enough, work hard enough, be responsible enough, be passionate enough, then I am owed what I want, what I am striving for, and what my dream is. We look at anything, anyone, or any situation that keeps us from what we want as an enemy to be contended with. If our dreams are defeated our most basic response is, “I have been cheated.”

This attitude strikes at the very core of our view of God. The Bible says He is sovereign, that He is Lord, that He is our creator, and we are His possession. We were created for His purposes. A true and genuine faith in our Lord demands we do our best, to have dreams, passions, and desires but that we submit those to Him and His will for us. The most basic question before us is, will I trust God with my disappointments, hurts, and broken dreams? Do I believe that He loves me enough to give me what is best, is knowledgeable is enough to know what is best, and He is strong enough to make it all come together?

Inseparably connected to our sense of entitlement, is the basic premise that we can buy, grab, and achieve something outside of ourselves that will truly make us happy and give us the satisfaction and fulfillment we so long for in life. It really comes from the very basic pursuit of “happiness” and thinking I can produce it in my life.

Let’s be honest here, we are a fallen, broken people living in a fallen, broken world. We are broken people, working in a broken context, trying desperately to produce something that is not broken.That is what the Gospel is all about. God by His grace in Christ Jesus redeeming our brokenness. We must, as first importance, accept our destitute position, submit it to Christ, and find our fullness in the power of the Spirit that transforms, cleanses, and makes us new by the work of Jesus on the cross.

Paul wrote in Titus 3:4-8, “But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men.”

Happiness and entitlement. This isn’t about stores being open on Thanksgiving, Black Friday, or the commercialization of Christmas. It is about who we are and what we truly need to be pursuing and clinging to.

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