“You deserve it.”
It’s thrown around in casual conversations and in response to status updates. Had a tough day at work? “You deserve a vacation.” Have the kids been especially challenging today? “You deserve some time to yourself.” Did the winter drag on longer than usual? “We deserve warmer temperatures.”
It seems like an innocent enough combination of words, doesn't it? But it's often said within the context of first-world, middle- and upper-class lifestyle. When we, as Christians, move
outside that comfy context, this phrase is exposed for what it really is: selfish.
What Do I Deserve?
My perspective on this phrase began changing because of a status update I posted a few months ago. I shared a simple graphic before Valentine’s Day that said, “It takes 32 gallons of water to grow a dozen roses. That’s enough water to sustain one person for a whole week.” The point was that in a world where 783 million people don’t have access to clean water, it seems wasteful to use that water on a plant that is grown only to wither and die shortly after purchase. But one friend saw it completely differently. She said she’d save water so I could have roses because I “deserved” it.
There were those three simple words. She said it innocently enough, but I couldn’t take the phrase at face value. I couldn’t help but wonder, If I deserve those flowers, what do people without access to clean water deserve? Don’t they deserve at least a basic human necessity? My mind didn’t stop there.
I thought back to times someone said I “deserved” a night out after a difficult day with the kids. Difficult questions swirled through my mind. How could this be something I “deserved” when there are single, working moms who haven’t had a break for longer than they can remember? I have a supportive husband, family, and friends who I can turn to on those difficult days, but there are mothers out there who have no one. There are mothers who not
only don’t have a break, they don’t have proper food and nutrition for themselves or their children. There are mothers who don’t even have a roof over their heads! Don’t they deserve a home more than I deserve a few hours away from the house or some flowers that only exist for a few moments of my viewing pleasure?
These questions were deeply convicting. The truth is, there are times when I do feel I “deserve” something. Sometimes it’s alone time or a girls’ night out. Sometimes it’s a dessert after a long workout or a vacation to get away. While these may reflect healthy desires for replenishment or friendship, there was something else there too. As I dug deeper into what I felt I deserved, I noticed something: me. Me, me, me.
At the root of each of those desires was a whiny version of myself wanting something, begging for it like as a small child begs for a new toy. The truth is that in many of these instances, what I needed much more than a “deserving” luxury was a rescue from myself, and a return to focusing on God.
The truth is, I don’t want to get what Scripture says we each deserve. And if there is anything I’ve learned as a Christ-follower it’s that I don’t deserve what I have been given! I have a Savior who gave the greatest sacrifice for me—his innocent life on a cross. He died so I may live. I don’t deserve this gift, and there’s nothing I could do to ever deserve it. That’s the thing about grace: it’s the greatest gift we could ever receive, and it’s one that we can never repay. It is far beyond anything we deserve or earn, no matter how hard we try.
Call my disdain for this phrase “you deserve it” a matter of semantics, but it’s more than that—it’s a mental shift. I believe it’s phrases like these that can cause us to view our circumstances selfishly. If we look at a difficult circumstance from the perspective of what we think we deserve, we likely won’t find the gift of the situation lurking under the surface. God doesn’t want us to seek what we think we deserve; he wants us to seek him and be grateful for his provisions, no matter the circumstance. Habitually seeking what we think we deserve keeps our sights focused inward when we should, instead, be looking up.
A desire for rest or refreshment is healthy—it’s human. But if we’re tired from diffusing toddler tantrums all day, what we need the most is to find comfort in God. If we had a rough day at work, what we really need is to seek his counsel. God is sufficient—so much more than a dozen roses or a girls’ night out! While those things, too, are gifts of God and can bring beauty and connection into our lives, they are moments to be grateful for rather than to assume we’re deserving of.
I could certainly use some time to myself after a difficult day to refresh, renew, breathe, and let the noise of the day settle from my mind. I could certainly enjoy a vase of fresh-cut flowers adorning the kitchen table and scenting the house. Yet while I’m thankful for gifts like these, I know I don’t deserve them. And, ultimately, I give thanks for those gifts I have received that I never could deserve.
Meagan Church is married to her high-school sweetheart and is the mother of three kids. She is a writer and children’s book author. She is also the brainpower behind the online resource Unexpectant.com, exploring the realities of birth, babies and beyond.