In fact, we are not entitled…

I was with my two colleagues as we drove across the university campus. Because we were lucky enough to have an “Official Business” decal in the windshield, we were entitled to drive the campus roads typically blocked from vehicles and congested with students walking or riding bikes. It was a mixed privilege. The guards didn’t prevent us from driving the direct route through campus, but the pedestrians made it difficult.

After we waited for a full three minutes as students ventured through the crosswalk, my colleague turned to us and said, “You can tell a lot about people by the way they cross the street.

“You can tell the ones who think they’re entitled to the road, but you can also tell the ones who have respect for drivers as well; they try to hurry their pace.”

“The pedestrians who drive me crazy,” I interjected, “are the ones who cross at a diagonal, walking as slowly as they possibly can.”

We laughed, joked about “target practice” and made our way to a rare parking space so we could complete our morning assignment.

Entitlement is a loaded buzz word in today’s American culture. Merriam-Webster defines it as “the condition of having a right to have, do, or get something.” It often carries with it a negative connotation. Certainly, the entitlement language my colleague used to describe some pedestrians included that pejorative connotation, though unspoken. Just as clearly, we three in the car did not consider ourselves among those who feel “entitled.” But I know I was wrong. At least about me.

gift edited
Today isn’t just the present, it is a present. A gift, not a given.

Yesterday afternoon, a friend from the school where I taught for more than a decade, called to let me know a former student had died. He was a year younger than my 19-year-old son, and they had played sports together all through grammar school. I had taught his older sister Algebra and participated in small groups and Bible studies with his parents. In fact, I’d been in a Bible study with his mother when she was pregnant with him. How could this young man, a seemingly healthy, athletic, ambitious freshman in college, be dead?

The information was unclear. According to the news this morning, he had been running with his ROTC unit and simply collapsed; he was unconscious when first responders tended him and declared dead shortly after his arrival at the hospital. His family was blindsided.

This tragedy seems so senseless and so wrong.

Of course, others are suffering devastating losses or difficulties the world over. I have friends with cancer and a nephew fighting a brain tumor. I wake up sick or with vertigo and realize that the quality of life can change in an instant. Just two nights ago, a vehicle crossed the interstate medium and collided with another. A series of accidents followed, resulting in a fire, a death, a number of critically injured motorists and traffic held captive for hours. Just last week, terrorists made Friday the 13th in Paris a nightmare beyond belief. A couple weeks before, a bomb took down a jetliner, killing all aboard. This morning, terrorists were holding more than a hundred people in a luxury hotel in West Africa.

And I realized I do have a sense of entitlement. I feel dying at 18 is unfair. Parents should not outlive their children. People with good health habits should not get sick. Careful drivers should not get in accidents. Cafe and theater and air travel patrons should not face death simply by  a chance location. Evil should not prevail. Good should win.

But life comes with no such rights or entitlements or guarantees. The Bible is pretty clear that what I may feel is entitled — today, tomorrow, next year — is not in my hands.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—  yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.  Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that” (James 4:13-15).

I have to trust that this loving Lord, who does have control, who sees the end from the beginning, has a perfect plan. Ultimately, I know this good God will win. I am not entitled to know His plan; I simply must trust and not fear.

As I was reflecting on this family’s heartache, I entered into conversation with a colleague, whose son attends the high school from which this young man graduated in June. She said the entire school was grieving at the news, that exams for today had been canceled. Landon Rogers was well-liked, and hearts are breaking today.

My 19-year-old sent me a text about one of his classes this afternoon, and I just wanted to reach through the phone and hug him. I thought about the upcoming Thanksgiving meal where I will be surrounded by my children and their loved ones (God willing) and how very blessed that makes me feel.

The loss of this fine young man reminds me that life is uncertain. Today isn’t just the present, it is a present. A gift, not a given.

We are not entitled.

Love well.

“He will not fear evil tidings;
His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord” (Psalm 112:7).


Posts for NaBloPoMo 2015:

  1. Why I love my hairstylist…
  2. To NaBloPoMo or not to NaBloPoMo? That is the question…
  3. No AC November…
  4. That dubious gift of an hour…
  5. I can’t wait to be discovered…
  6. Once an English teacher, always an English teacher…
  7. Of mice and men (or when you give a mouse a cookie)…
  8. When you replace people with possessions…
  9. Do what you know is right…
  10. When your eyes are bigger than your weekend…
  11. Attempting “The Glad Game”…
  12. When the Christian life is a bit too much like a political debate…
  13. Vertigo: When the world around you begins to spin…
  14. How our Mitsubishi van became blue…
  15. If she only knew…
  16. When everything feels like straw…
  17. Construction criticism (or where have all the detours gone?)…
  18. Don’t skimp on the showers…
  19. My surprise “happily ever after” …
  20. In fact, we are not entitled…

4 responses to “In fact, we are not entitled…”

  1. Kathleen Howell Avatar
    Kathleen Howell

    There really is nothing more uncertain than life itself. So very sorry for your loss.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. sarahas5 Avatar

      Thank you, Kathleen.


  2. mother-in-love Avatar

    Very good blog Sara…….we have to deal with the death issues and just remember God is in control and knows our destiny, never questioning His perception of life. Our faith and His Grace over rule all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. sarahas5 Avatar

      Thanks so much, Betty Jo. I thought of you and also Bill’s parents as I wrote my post on our anniversary and, again, the day after as I wrote this post. Steve and I find ourselves fighting tears as we grieve with the Rogers family. I can only imagine the pain in losing a child. God bless you! I know remembering that God is in control and knows our destiny is what carried you through those tough times. I love you!


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