My Deserved Reward

The airplane’s wheels touched down in Portland, Oregon, and my heart jumped up and down in anticipation of seeing my family again. The plane took foreeeeeeverrrrrrrr to disgorge its passengers, until I could skip down the corridors of PDX, straining to see my family past the “No Re-entry” sign.

I’d been in Australia for a semester with 32 other American students, and I missed them already; but there’s nothing like the carpet at PDX to make you feel good about being back. Not only that, but I’d made it through college and would be graduating in a few days.

Despite everyone’s good intentions upon my departure to Australia a few months before, I did not actually find an Australian man to date. In fact, this conversation grew really old really fast:

Person: Haven’t seen you around in a while. Where’ve you been?

Me: Australia.

Person: Did you bring a hot Aussie guy back in your suitcase?

Not: “Did you have a nice time?” or “How is reentry going?” or “What were a couple of highlights?” or “OMG, I want to see all your pictures and hear all your stories – you have to come over RIGHT NOW and tell me about it!” Just: “Did you find an Aussie man?”

I had appropriately snarky or serious answers for each asker of that question, but hearing (and answering) it over and over fed into the lie I was starting to believe. The thought creeping up on me was, “I deserve a man now because I’ve waited soooooo patiently.”

I can’t even count the number of times I told God something like, “Can you bring him now? I totally deserve it.”

Not: “Thanks for the nice time in college!” or “How is my man doing – are You watching over him before I meet him?” or “What are some things You and I need to work on in my character?” or “OMG, I want to see all your creation and preach all your truths – You have to prepare me for a life of serving You RIGHT NOW!” Just: “Did You find me an Aussie man?”

I would look back over my adulthood up until then, remember only the times I had mature, patient thoughts/feelings about my relationship status, point them out to God and say, “See? I deserve a man because I’ve been so good.” Like God was giving out treats to the best kid, or rewarding good behavior with lollipops.

God: You’ve been such a good little Christian, Charity. What flavor of husband would you like?

Me: Gee thanks, God! Tall, dark, and handsome, please, if you don’t mind.  A little dash of wealth and chivalry wouldn’t hurt either, if it’s not too much trouble.

It wasn’t just around graduation that I treated God like a boyfriend vending machine, either. That entitlement attitude persisted in the back (or front) of my mind for years.

“God, look – I’m utilizing my singleness to serve my family and my Awana club and my church. Don’t I deserve a man, now?”

“God, look – I’m living my life to the fullest, traveling around the world and around the States. Don’t I deserve a man, now?”

“God, look – I’m saving my virginity for my husband. Don’t I deserve a man, now?”

“God, look – I just read through my Bible in a year and memorized some verses. Don’t I deserve a man, now?”

“God, look – my skirts are below my knees, and my collarbone only shows sometimes. Don’t I deserve a man, now?”

“God, look – I put in my quarters, and I’m pushing the buttons. Don’t tell me every single slot on THIS machine is full of singleness, too!”

I thought I was trusting God. I thought I was helping Him, actually. But it took years before I realized I was trying to DO something in order to GET something from God.

And that’s just not the way God works. In God’s perfect plan for the world (and my life), He does all the DOING:

In this worldview, I can do nothing on my own to be pleasing to God. I can do nothing to make Him want to do something for me. In fact, because I am a sinner, the only thing God CAN do in response to any of my actions is condemn me to hell for eternity (Genesis 2:16-17).

So Jesus, wanting to save me from an eternity apart from His Father God, gave up His own place in Heaven, came to earth as a human, died in my place to pay for my sin (including my entitlement that I allowed to permeate my attitude for yeeaarrrrrrsssss), rose from the dead (I Cor 15:3-4), and now sits back up in Heaven so that He can tell God, “She’s mine. I paid for her.”

Jesus – the only person in the history of everything to actually DESERVE something from God because of His sinless life – gave up the salvation He was entitled to, so that my entitlement would no longer separate me from eternity with Him.

What I was not considering as I ran into my family’s arms that day at PDX, or graduated man-less, or entered “Single” on countless subsequent W-4s, was that I don’t deserve a man – that none of my selfless actions or well-spent single years earned me any more credit on God’s marriageability scale than my selfish actions or ill-spent single years did.

Whatever God gives me is ALL by His grace. Singleness is His grace to me. My moments of selflessness are His grace to me. My well-spent years are His grace to me. His Son is His grace to me. Even the fact that I now recognize my entitlement and can learn from and repent of it is His grace to me.

Now at airports, I meet my family or roommate or rental car with gratefulness, knowing I’m loved by God because of Jesus’ work – not my own. And I trust that my man will eventually be the one I come home to, because I’m loved by Jesus – not because I did something to deserve a husband.

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