Earning the Taste of Raspberries

I always told my students, “I hate the word deserve.” To me, it is a sophomoric word, one that’s grossly assumptive. When someone says, “I deserve your attention” or “I deserve respect,” all I can think is, “Where did you get that idea?” When a person uses the word, they’re basically saying, “It’s my individual merits, my snowflake-perfect uniqueness that makes me worthy of something. Give it to me.”

I do, however, like the word “earn.” I like it a lot. To “earn” something, a person must be willing to put in the time, to work hard, to plan accordingly, and to make smart choices. To “earn” something means it’s yours free and clear. You owe nothing and no one for it.

Image from thunderclap.it. And we all know freelance writers deserve the best, yes?
Image from thunderclap.it. And we all know freelance writers deserve the best, yes?

For instance, I earned my master’s degree through countless hours of study and writing. I earned my good name by doing the right things and making smart choices. I try to earn job security through consistently performing at a high level. Essentially, I want to earn my peace of mind, know where everything is coming from, and take measures to make gains and prevent losses.

But the older I get, the more I realize just how little I can actually control…and how little I actually earn on my own.

In 1 Corinthians 4:7, the apostle Paul writes, “For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?”

Image from thequotefactory.com.
Image from thequotefactory.com.

That one scripture undoes everything —“What do you have that you did not receive?” I might have put in the hours in the classroom, but who gave me the brains to earn the degrees? God did. Who made it economically possible for me to go to college in the first place? God did. Who gave me the job I love? God did. Who placed me in a family that taught me what it means to be kind to others? Yep, Him again. Heck, even the very desire to be kind comes from Him, which Romans 3:10-12 makes plain:

“There is none righteous, not even one. There is none who understands; there is none who seeks for God. All have turned aside, together they have become useless. There is none who does good. There is not even one.”

And that’s what makes grace, something more valuable than I can explain, so amazing. There is nothing we can do to earn it; we can’t save up good deeds in some celestial piggy bank to cash in when we hit the pearly gates. It is given to us with open, eager hands by a heavenly Father who sent His Son to pay the debt that should have been ours.

Image of Frederick Buechner from buechnerinstitute.org.
Image of Frederick Buechner from buechnerinstitute.org.

Frederick Buechner, as is his way, says it with style. According to him, “Grace is something you can never get but can only be given. There’s no way to earn it or deserve it or bring it about any more than you can deserve the taste of raspberries and cream or earn good looks or bring about your own birth.”

Everything I am or ever will be is a gift. I have always been right for loathing the word “deserve,” but I need to be less laudatory of “earn” as well. Neither one should hold pride of place.

Which word do you find yourself using more often? Why do you think that’s your default setting? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter as well as how you explain the meaning of grace to others. Tell me in the comments section below!

26 Lives in 5 Hours

For anyone who already sponsors a child through Compassion International, I don’t have to tell you how rewarding it is. If you aren’t already doing so, I highly suggest you check out their organization and see if there’s a child you’d like to sponsor. For $38, about one dollar a day, you provide a child access to a church-based child sponsorship program that provides so many wonderful things.

When families find out they have a sponsor, you can only imagine how overjoyed they are. Someone they will likely never meet reached out to help them in Jesus’ name, and the money that might otherwise go toward one more meal out or a new pair of shoes for us can do so much more for them. Here’s a video Compassion recently released of a family finding out their child has a sponsor. I can’t understand what they’re saying, but I don’t think I need to.

I also highly recommend getting involved with serving as a Compassion International volunteer at one of their sponsorship events. It’s very simple to do and only takes about five hours of your time. Wayne and I volunteered to help match sponsors with children at an event located here in Marietta as part of a Fresh Grounded Faith women’s event.

It only took five hours of our Saturday, and we helped match 26 children with new sponsors!

Wayne and me behind the booth.
Wayne and me behind the booth.
All the packets arranged by continent.
All the packets arranged by continent.
Just take a look at all those cute faces!
Just take a look at all those cute faces!
These beads were a gift we gave to every person who chose and child and made a first payment. Gorgeous, yes?
These beads were a gift we gave to every person who chose a child and made a first payment. Gorgeous, yes?
If you're interested in the beads, visit this site. They're made by women in Uganda.
If you’re interested in the beads, visit this site. They’re made by women in Uganda.
I saw this sweet little girl in the stack and put her on top. I said that if no one adopted her, I would. But thankfully, she got her sponsor that day!!
I saw this sweet little girl in the stack and put her on top. I said that if no one chose her, I would. But thankfully, she got her sponsor that day!!
Wayne liked this little guy.
Wayne liked this little guy.

Now, I warn you, this can be addictive. It is so much fun to help people find the child God has in mind for them, to help them search the world over right at the table. Some folks had a country or gender in mind, but many were open to anything. We had one woman ask for a child with special needs, and we dug through the packets until we found the little guy she was meant to help care for. Others told us, “Give me one that’s been waiting the longest” or “Which one has the greatest need?” It was great to see so many people who wanted to help others.

Working the table as a volunteer made me realize how much I need to bone up on my knowledge of countries like Togo and Columbia. If I am more educated next time, I can point people towards the countries where children are at the greatest risk of sex trafficking or where AIDS is still running rampant. I knew enough to muddle through this time, but I want to be able to help people make the best choice when sponsoring a child.

The other warning I have is that once you’ve looked at these photos, you can’t stop thinking about the kids in them. As Wayne and I went through the unused packets after the event and saw how many children there were on the list who had been waiting more than six months for a sponsor, we decided to go through that priority pile and choose two more. Two of those 26 are now ours.

We are now the proud sponsors of four Compassion kids—Edmond in Burkina Faso, Paromika in India, Tania in Nicaragua, and Brayan in El Salvador!

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