Undeserved: Why Everything We Get Is A Gift

I believe that most of our problems in relationships stem from an “I-deserve-better” attitude.  This past Friday (at the time of this writing), a disgruntled former employee opened fire and killed five of his co-workers at a manufacturing facility, about a half hour from where I live. I attest one of the reasons why he got so angry was because he thought he truly deserved the job, and when his bosses fired him, everything in this former worker unraveled before him.  Though most of us would not murder when we don’t get what we think we deserve, we can still get tempted to get similarly angry when our “rights are being violated” or we think we aren’t “getting the good we deserve in this life.”  This causes us, me included, unfortunately, to become defensive and angry at those around us…and even at God.  However, a good thing to keep in mind, especially if you are a follower of Christ, is, “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17a) and that we don’t really deserve anything!  When we have a mindset that everything good in this life is undeserved and is a gift of grace from above, this entitlement attitude starts to disappear. However, in the society we live in, especially if you live in a Western country, this entitlement attitude is deeply ingrained in us, me included, that I think we need to learn how to embrace the “gift” mentality instead.  Here are some things that I have learned about why we should strive to treat whoever and whatever comes our way as gifts, not as something “owed” to us.

When we think we are entitled to someone or something, we are not acknowledging that God really owns it all.  However, when we acknowledge that everything we get is a gift from God, we are recognizing His control and His power over our lives—an important aspect of true worship. My pastor said today that we must be willing to be a living sacrifice in order to truly worship God, and part of being a sacrifice is relinquishing our rights to His control.  If you work, even the money we “earn” from your job is a gift because it is God who gave you the abilities and skills to do your job well enough to be able to sustain employment and thus a paycheck! I wonder if the recent shooting on Friday could have been avoided if, when the man who shot five people at his job got fired, instead of getting angry at this perceived injustice, he just appreciated the money he had already gotten from his job and just appreciated the gifts he still had in his life more. 

When we see everything we have as a gift, and not something that someone “owes” us, we become more able to be content with life, even with its caveats and imperfections.  Think about how it feels when you get a gift that you totally do not expect or deserve.  Not only are you most likely to feel intense joy, but also, more likely, an overwhelming sense of gratitude and humility towards the person who gave you the gift.  When we strive to approach our lives the same way, each blessing we get will cause us to feel joy and gratitude.  However, when we think we are owed something or that we “earned” something, we are not as grateful because whatever we get is our due, anyway, or so we believe. This is why most of us get upset when we don’t feel we are getting what we perceive is owed us. We see it as an injustice, a violation of our moral rights.  However, if we take away the “scoreboard”  in our souls of things supposedly owed us, this anger has no longer has any place to reside, and will melt away.

When we see everyone and everything that is given to us as a gift, we tend to value them more.  For instance, if my friend gives me something that I perceive is from his or her heart and that is not owed me, I tend to want to take better care of it, so that I don’t lose the preciousness of the gift.  This not only applies to material gifts, it also applies to treating each person as a gift from above.  When we treat each person as a gift from above, instead of someone or something disposable or suited only to meet our needs, we tend to treat them better.  I have witnessed and heard in many different workplaces, unfortunately, of people being treated like disposable objects, or at best, tools, if you will, instead of the precious, complex image-bearers of God they are.  This mentality seems to be growing worse and more prevalent, not only in workplaces, but also in other social constructs as well.  However, when we go against the grain and strive to treat each person we encounter as the precious gifts they are, we can not only touch lives, we can change the world around us for the better.

father valuing his child as precious

When we acknowledge everything we get is a gift, not something we are owed, we are most ready to worship God rightly; we are more likely to be content and grateful with our lives, and we will value those around us more.  This week God has been teaching me over and over again that everything I get from Him is a gift, and not something I could really deserve or earn.  When I realize all that has been given to me, I realize that I am blessed beyond measure by a God who gives me more than I could ever deserve.

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Because You Believed

to everyone who believed in the potential of a woman with ordinary dreams

One day, at work with two other of her colleagues, chatting over their childhoods during break, a woman– the one with ordinary dreams, said, “When I was growing up, I was naughty, and I didn’t have many friends. One of my peers even said, ‘You are a very difficult person to get along with’.”

Neither of her colleagues believed her.

But it was all too true.

About 25 years earlier, because of her disability and other differences, the woman with ordinary dreams was never taken seriously, regularly taken advantage of by peers, and was often chosen last for team sports in gym class and class projects. No one really wanted to look into her soul and get to know her. She was too selfish, rigid, and difficult; they reasoned.

Ten years later, she became a bit easier to deal with, but had a paranoia and bitter pain in her soul. She really felt she couldn’t trust, much less open up to, anyone. Never had this girl thought she’d ever really be valued in anyone’s eyes. Confirming this despair, one of her teachers had said in so many condemning, angry words that she would probably not amount to much in life, and she believed this for fifteen long years. The week this teacher told her this, this girl with ordinary dreams– one of which was to be accepted and loved for who she was– , saw that dream shatter before her eyes. She reasoned if she would never really be loved for who she was, even to her hurting soul, life was no longer worth it.

Thus, she contemplated suicide, but then God rescued her from self- destruction and despair.

11 years later..

The woman with ordinary dreams meets her mentor who would change her life forever because her mentor believed in her potential and the value of her soul. The mentor keeps prodding and helping the woman until she lands a job in which she can actually succeed. The mentor also helps her gain confidence in herself and believe in her dreams again. Even to her dream of  one day becoming a writer and getting a full- time job somewhere, the mentor never ridiculed or dismissed, but actively helps the woman fulfill them.

6 years later…

The woman with ordinary dreams senses God leading her to a new job, since a previous one no longer fit into her expansive dreams. The woman, with dreams of being a writer and being loved, is stoked about getting an interview at a bookstore, which she considers her “dream” job that would lead her to be able to write someday . However, during the actual interview, it was made clear to her that this was not the job God had for her. Her dreams are shattered once again.

However, she does not give up. Going into a store, which she applied for, to buy a few things, she suddenly hears  a voice in her soul that told her to ask about the application. She does and, subsequently gets an interview. The interviewer, she finds out later, was going to be her manager!

That manager is the hardest worker she has ever seen in her life! While preparing the logistics for the interview and afterwards, she sees the manager also stocking items in the area he manages, or doing returns.

The woman is shocked to find out that she has been accepted for the job–and happy as well.  However, she doesn’t know then, that God would use that job to fulfill her ordinary dreams of being loved and also becoming full-time.

That woman was me.

Epilogue:

This month marks three years with my current job. It may not seem like much, but considering I’ve not had many jobs where I was in one company that long, it is only by God’s grace, my mentor J, Chris*, Elizabeth *, and countless others who believed I could be of value to them, that I was able to make it this far.  My wonderful co- workers and managers in #1401 have taught me so much. I aspire to be like my mentor J, who never gave up on me and who valued me. I aspire to be like Chris, whose work ethic and dedication to his associates is a model for me to follow. I aspire to be like Elizabeth, who always believed in her associates’ potentials and encouraged them to reach for the stars. She encouraged me to learn to cashier when others seemed more reluctant to take me on, and satisfied my curiosity to learn new skills and to try my best always. I aspire to be like Hope*, who first offered me full- time and encouraged me to strive for excellence.

Thank you everyone at #1401 who helped me get to where I am today. Today, I am able to realize my ordinary dreams, all because you believed in me.

some of the wonderful people that helped me realize my ordinary dreams.

*= names changed for privacy of the individuals mentioned.

How God Has Blessed Me This Year

I don’t want to list my blessings in order to parade them before other people in pride and pomp, but to highlight how good God is and continues to be, not only to me, but to all of us.  Sometimes, we fall on difficult times and we forget about the good times because we are so focused on the stressful situation at hand. I get that, and unfortunately, I do that, too.  However, I hope, with this list of blessings (not all inclusive, that would take literally days and weeks), that each one of you will think about how you have been blessed this year and how God has helped you through some tough times, as He has to me:

  1. I got to see my relatives this summer, some of who I hadn’t seen in 8 years! They live very far away (as in I couldn’t even drive there to go see them!), and I had such a great time getting to know them and their families, as most of my cousins are married with children now.  I also got to see many sites and eat delicious food.  I even travelled with some of them to other cities within the area.  Even though some of us got sick, God really protected my family and me from any strife and anger.
  2. When I was faced with the prospect of spending Christmas alone, God put in my heart to try to request off from work so that my parents, my brother, and I could all spend Christmas together. I did, thinking there was no harm to try even if I didn’t get the days off. I had talked with my manager Elizabeth* about this and she said she’d let me know the next week. Well, the next day (It was a Saturday that same week), I checked to see what the status of my request for days off were, and they were already approved! Immediately, I texted my brother, who bought plane tickets for us to go to Texas.  I am so happy that, as of this writing, I will get to not only spend Christmas with my family, but also get to see the area where my brother now lives! God is good!
  3. I really got to know my friend Allison* this year, and we have become close.  I realized that she and I have a lot in common, and we are able to encourage each other and give each other hope on the tough days.  I am blessed to be able to know her and I look forward to seeing her each day at work, when we are both working.
  4. My manager Elizabeth*, not only gave me the days off that I wanted, but also has helped and mentored me to become a better associate and person.  She also has encouraged me not to be so self-deprecating (as I am quite the perfectionist,:\ )  by telling me how much she appreciated my character and my work. She always tells me that I’m amazing, but I really think she’s amazing, as both a manager and a person. Unfortunately, a few weeks ago (as of this writing) was her last day at the company, but I have been so blessed to have known her.
  5. God sent one of my other managers, Chris,* to save my physical life by discouraging me from working for him when there was a snowstorm ensuing outside. I wanted to work a double shift for him because I felt bad when there were hardly any associates to help him, since most had called off due to the storm. However, he said that he cared about his associates, and did not want me to have an accident due to fatigue + a snowstorm, especially since I lived more than a few minutes from work.  I ended up listening to him, and going home at a decent time. I even had to call off the next day because the storm was so bad.  Had I worked for him and had he not said anything to me, I don’t know if I would be alive today.
  6. God has provided us with a new pastor when our current one had announced that he was leaving. Though I love our current pastor, it is clear from God that he is going to be on a different journey. However, even through all that, our upcoming new pastor is not only familiar with the congregants (He grew up at my current church), but it seems that he will continue the legacy that the pastor that is leaving has worked so hard to build.
  7. God has continued to use my blog and my writing to be able to bless and encourage others. He has even provided an opportunity for me to join a writing group in order to improve my writing skills and to reach and minister to even more people through the lessons (or, whisperings) that God has taught me.  

These are just a few of the blessing that God has bestowed on me, in His goodness and love, this year. How has God blessed you this year? What has He done to help you see His love and grace in your life? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

*=Names changed, in order to protect the privacy of the individuals mentioned