Wednesday, June 07, 2006

entitlement

Summer here on the beach always has contained an element of frustration for me. Summer is when all of “the others” appear to enjoy the sun, waves and incredible views. You would expect that, I guess, for a place as attractive as this. My problem with it is that now I virtually have to compete with “them” to enjoy all of the niceties that for most of the rest of the year are just mine for the taking. They take up the walkways, the picnic tables, the bike trails, and even all of the best view seats at the best hangouts. This morning is a great example. I was a bit later than usual to my routine place of inspiration, Starbucks. All of the best seats were taken. Any other time of year I could enjoy some grace period and still get a good seat, but not today, not in the sunshine and warmth of June. So here I am, down the block, at Tully’s. It’s a decent place with decent coffee and decent views, but it’s still not fair. Why did I have to change? I live here. Where are they when the sky is gray and the wind blows colder across the mountains? Where are they when the mist and the fog wrap around you like a cold wet blanket? Then it’s not convenient. It’s not attractive. They don’t live here, so there’s no reason for them to come then. They’re conditional, but I’m always here. I’m entitled. Did I say that out loud? Well I am. I am here through good weather and bad. I give back. I am loyal. They just take, take, take, and when it’s no longer fun or convenient, they’re gone like the Summer breezes and low tides. It bothers me. I’m entitled, aren’t I?
So I wonder, this morning as I sit in my seat of second choice, what causes this resentment? Where does this feeling of “I deserve this” come from? I think that it’s my upbringing actually. I don’t mean my family upbringing. What I think I mean is that because I’m an citizen of the United States and I’ve enjoyed the luxury of such things before, my good seat and all, I’m entitled to it every time I want it. They probably feel the same way, those “others” who invade my space. After all, they’ve done this year after year, season after season. They probably don’t even realize that I resent them. They just want what’s theirs even if it conflicts with my wanting what’s mine. Does that mean that it’s all actually “ours”?
Anyway, this is not the only place that I feel entitled and I’m sure that I’m not alone. I feel an entitlement to fast service when I’m in a checkout lane marked “express”. At least I’d like it to be as fast as any other non-express lane that’s whizzing by me while my clothes go out of style waiting to purchase a candy bar. I was in New Orleans a few months back doing some relief work. I was appalled that they had hardly a coffee place open in their airport and none at all once past security. What was I supposed to do while waiting for my flight home? I couldn’t believe that there was nothing open. They gave us some song and dance about no workers left in the area and all that. Whatever…, I just wanted a cup of coffee. Is that too much to ask? I’m entitled. I’m from Seattle. I can get a cup of coffee at just about any other airport in the country. Even those crop duster county airports have machines that would give you coffee in a wax cup. Sometimes my selfishness can alarm even me. I had just spent a week sludging through what used to be peoples homes and sharing in their heartache and loss. I was only a few miles and a few hours removed from that and yet I felt “entitled” to a quality full service coffee experience.
I’m making a mental list of things that I could find myself feeling entitled to. I can list my laptop, wireless connectivity, cell service on demand, clear picture on my television, traffic free passage, a seat with a view, reasonable gas prices, no train delays, privacy, on street parking, Summer sunshine, advertised sale items available, to name just a few. As someone who professes a Christian worldview I can get the same way. I feel entitled to the benefits regardless of the reality around me. I expect grace and forgiveness and peaceful right to worship and all that. I expect to be respected for my views and I expect answers to prayer in my view of answers and in my time frame. It’s scary, my Americanized view of my own universe. How demanding I’ve become. A I look to my list, I can’t help but think that the former have affected the latter. As I’ve come to expect all of the creature comforts of American life, I’m worried that it has carried over to my spiritual life. I tend to forget that my faith calls me to be a non-resident of this culture. I’m only passing through. I’m an alien here. Or at least I should be. And as such, I have no entitlement. I have no right to forgiveness. That’s what grace is. I can’t earn it, I didn’t deserve it, and never will no matter what my American experience is. It’s just there for me. I just need to learn thank you.Here’s some irony. As I sit here wrestling with my struggle with what ought to be mine, how I ought to be cared for, a resident bird has just flown in and perched next to me. He comes here often, and when he does people feed him what’s left of whatever they’ve been enjoying with their coffee. So I’m feeding him what’s left of my blueberry muffin. And I’m reminded that the only entitlement I’ve been promised is that I’d be cared for even better than the birds of the air. I used to not think that this was such a big deal. After all, bird seed and worms is nothing to write home about. Anything has to be a step up from that. But this bird eats coffee cake, donuts, and blueberry muffins. It makes me feel a little better that God will provide for my needs and probably even a few selfish pleasures along the way, even without the entitlement

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