Easter: Celebrating What We Don't Deserve
- Friday, March 14, 2008
We are a people concerned with getting what we deserve.
We deserve child care, health care, good schools, good jobs, easy commutes and a comfortable retirement.
We deserve smoke-free air, a strong stock market, happiness in our marriages and children who always remember our birthdays.
Lobbying groups and professional organizations around the country exist solely for the purpose of seeing that we get what we deserve. Well, that and to line their pockets in the process.
When you listen closely, you hear the many things we deserve sprinkled throughout conversations: We deserve our money’s worth. We deserve to be treated respectfully. We deserve good customer service.
With all that work at getting what we deserve, it’s no small wonder we also feel we deserve a vacation.
Kind-hearted as we are, we are not only concerned about getting what we deserve; we are concerned that others get what they deserve as well. Like the nutcase on the interstate blasting by at 90, zipping in and out of traffic, cutting off cars, tailgating. What a pleasure to see red and blue flashing lights and that Mr. Road Rage has been pulled over by an officer. He got what he deserved. Or as we like to say, he had it coming.
After a big awards show, or a sports tournament, we debate whether the winners deserved to win and whether the losers deserved to lose. We have a keen sense of deservedness.
Last week I deserved a mini-van. Ours is going to the body shop after being rear-ended. I told the claims agent that since one of their insured took our mini-van out, it seemed that we deserved a mini-van for a rental. She said, according to state law, all they were required to do was put us in a tuna fish can with wheels. Hmmpf.
We deserve the right to eat and not grow fat, the right to speak, the right to be heard and the right to have all of our questions promptly answered.
Recently, 12 American tourists on a B'nai B'rith trip to South America were killed when their bus fell down a mountainside. A reporter asked a rabbi if he questioned why God allowed such a bad thing to happen. The rabbi answered, I do not question God for the bad things that happen, just as I do not question God for the joyful things that happen. What a rare breed. A man who did not believe he deserved an answer.
It is no small irony that though we often live life pursuing what we may falsely or rightly believe we deserve, the holiest holiday on the Christian calendar celebrates not getting what we deserved.
We deserved something all right. Wrath. We richly deserved the penalty for sin, self-centeredness, arrogance, pride, greed, gluttony, hard hearts, mean spiritedness and all the rest. But, the thing is, we didn’t get it.
He took what I deserved, every lash, every hit, every piercing. He took what I had coming. He paid the price I deserved to pay, was crucified, dead and buried, and on the third day rose again.
They say a good way to distinguish between grace and mercy is to remember that grace is getting what you DIDN’T have coming, and mercy is NOT getting what you DID have coming.
Easter is the celebration of mercy.
The next time I open my mouth about something I deserve, may God freeze my speech mid-air and bring to mind the joy and thanksgiving of not getting that which I deserved the most of all.
Columnist and speaker Lori Borgman is the author of several books including Pass the Faith, Please (Waterbrook Press) and All Stressed Up and No Place to Go (Emmis Books). Comments may be sent to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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