I never asked to be bitter. I asked to be, to quote the movie Pride And Prejudice, “completely, and perfectly, and incandescently happy.” That is not how it has turned out. It’s not impossible to make me happy, I just want things to be more reasonable and a bit less disastrous. But add disaster to disaster, and unlike Job from the Bible, THIS guy, who’s a whole lot less perfect, has gotten a bitter aftertaste and can’t shake it.
I spent Sunday afternoon trying to do as little around the house as possible. I fixed lunch for young master M, and for myself, mowed the grass, and above that, accomplished little, except I wrote a poem. I did that first thing in the morning, so that doesn’t count.
And I ended up looking inside, which is never a good thing.
Yesterday we went to church and heard a message about marriage and family life. What do you do when the message steps on all your toes? And this after someone said I should quit this church (over an issue I interpreted as entitlement and dismissed). In my marriage, I used to be happy, but I’m not and it’s gotten to where she’s tired of my rants about things falling apart. It’s not within the realms of the impossible. Simple, little things that would boost my confidence, iykwim, would be nice, and should be easy (see how entitled I feel about my marriage?), and should be readily afforded to me. But they’re not. Those little niceties aren’t afforded to me by way of reciprocation.
Math lesson: Reciprocals are the inverse of a given number, for example the inverse of 100 is 1/100, when multiplied together, you get one. For true unity in a marriage, I infer, that if I am giving 100, so should my wife and thereby we achieve one-ness, a unity in the marriage. If I give less, or she gives less, the ratio is out of balance and the multiplication gets weird and doesn’t give a product of unity.
I really hate people with a sense of entitlement. They’re selfish and demanding people, taking from others without a second thought. I strive to be a giver but I don’t want to blow any trumpets about it when I am able to do some small thing to help someone else. And I don’t want anyone else blowing a trumpet for me either. It’s all about helping people. But the more I give in certain relationships and receive less than reciprocity, the more out of balance it becomes. I’m not keeping records except “minus one” in a certain column; this could start today and I’d be “…incandescently happy,” and we would be debt free. (Romans 13:8)
Before the message, in our small group Bible study the leader, a layman (means he’s not a professional ministry type person) did his best to facilitate discussion about Revelation 3. In Revelation 3, a rich church was called out for being useless before God. They weren’t cold and refreshing, ministering to the community’s immediate physical needs. They weren’t hot and therapeutic, helping one another deal with deeper, spiritual issues. They were enclaved, sealed off, tepid, and useless. And yet, they believed they were doing fine.
I got my digs in about churches that don’t help when there’s a real ministry opportunity. And I was thinking about a fellow blogger who needs a few bucks more than I have, that hasn’t been met yet. And I was thinking of myself, because when I went to them needing help (cold), they acted like, well, we could help but we’re not, and maybe unlike Job, it’s your fault you’re stuck where you are and you should be able to fix it yourself. So they prayed empty feeling words over us and let us leave without delivering any help. And now that we’re in need again, (but really still because it hasn’t miraculously fixed itself and another thing broke and is more costly than we can afford to replace it,) we’re gun shy about going to them again, because fuck that. And fuck them for not helping when we asked. Can you blame us?
And our church thinks they’re doing fine. They think they’re doing good deeds, and maybe they are. But I think churches should look inside before they go off on a big missions tangent helping people a million miles away, they should find out how they can help people who are already attending right there in front of them. And help them first.
And then the message came. The new pastor doesn’t know me or my situation. So I can’t blame him for anything, he speaks from ignorance. Or from divine wisdom. He said in a marriage, your sense of entitlement shows in one of two ways: either you’re angry, explosive, raging, or you’re bitter, internal, slow-burning. He said bitter people withdraw and angry people explode, and both hurt other people in relationships. I never wanted to be bitter, I wanted to be successful and encouraged on to greater success. And then I knocked, as the text says “knock and the door shall be opened unto you,” and it didn’t. (Matthew 7:7, if you’re looking those up)
I’m bitter. (Duh, Deon, that’s what we’ve all come to expect from reading your lunacy.)
I’m also angry.
So do I secretly harbor an inner sense of entitlement? Yes. **EXCUSE ALERT** It’s the human condition. But I’m not using my sense of entitlement as an excuse to be selfish and take things other people need, or withholding good from people when I can give it.
It’s my excuse: I’m entitled to feel entitlement. I take verses like Philippians 4:19 and believe what I think I need should be provided. And basically, what I think I need is just money in order to be able to fix or replace things and to provide for my family. There’s a verse for that, I Corinthians 7:33, and it’s the truth. I am concerned about the things of the world and I want my wife to be happy. Above that, I think I need enough money to take care of myself. I have a major stumbling block in my way, interfering with my spiritual life, and it’s not the love of money, it’s the LACK of money. I’ve already been thinking about this for a long time, the message was just reinforcement. Why can’t I have it? I’m not really learning anything from my condition of lacking. What would really teach me a lesson is to be wealthy and be forced to deal with all the problems insanely rich people face. Except I might be, to re-quote the movie Pride And Prejudice, “completely, and perfectly, and incandescently happy.” And then, would I be of any use to God at all? (Maybe. Test me in this way and see what happens, God!)
Revelation 3 says,
17 But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
I know the things I lack. I know I’m wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked already. But am I entitled to anything else? Maybe not. I’ve prayed for God to fix my money, and the way He decided to fix it was to move me from where I had enough to a place where I don’t have enough, treading water and starting to drown in debt, and I want to go back. Not geographically. Financially. All the takers just say I should “just” quit and get a bigger badder job, and I’ve struggled with that because they’re not out there for the taking, at least not by me. So thanks, God, I’ve learned a lot from being pitiful and poor, can we flip that and let me learn from being bountiful and rich? Where’s that refined gold, eh?
Am I entitled to a miraculous rescue? Maybe not. People with cancer pray for health, I pray to fix certain things about me that money would answer, like my teeth. Cancer victims hear “no,” all the time. Am I entitled to a different answer? People train to do this or that profession and they end up being plumbers or whatever because that’s how they can earn a decent living, or they end up homeless and divorced. I trained to work in the ministry, and I can’t find a job worth shit. Am I entitled to a different answer? I should live in fear of an event like in Numbers 16, and not even try to serve a church. Everyone else has things that fall apart and they either have to fix it or do without. Am I entitled to different treatment?
I know the right answer, but I still wish the answer was yes, damn it. All those success preachers and the idiots who think “God helps those who help themselves” is somewhere in the Bible do. On the playground people yell about how “it’s unfair.” Well I want to yell because it’s fair and I want better. Entitled? Maybe not. But I wish I was. Then I’d have a better reason to bitch.
Am I bitter? Hell yes. But should I be? It’s been a slow progression to the low of my realization, perhaps I can start cutting the roots. But I still think that I’d learn just as much or more in the remaining years of my life, by being enabled to “buy gold refined in the fire, so [I] can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so [I] can cover [my] shameful nakedness; and salve to put on [my] eyes, so [I] can see.”
In Isaiah 55, through the prophet You speak about buying without money, maybe Revelation 3 is presented with the same idea? Because the church that has everything thinks they are rich and You say they are poor, so their money and mine isn’t worth enough to buy that gold, now is it? How about you “sell” (wink wink) me some of that refined gold that brings wealth? Instead of this waiting until four or more days after I’m already dead, God, how about You do the easier slightly less miraculous gardening thing and help me with these bitter roots and bring me back to life?