My husband and I discovered that there is no direct translation in French for expressing the sense of entitlement. You can only say that you feel something is your due, which is a more cumbersome way to say it. It loses the punch factor. It sounds ugly, but less ugly.
2016 – and now the beginning of 2017 – has been a series of unfortunate events. You all know about the house travesty: hiring a carpenter named Jesus (not Hay-sus), whose wife is named Mary – after we had prayed for a sign that God would show us which contractor to use – only to have his business come very close to folding after we had given him nearly all the money. We are waiting to see if he can come finish the work and patch all the damage the initial stages have made in our living space.
And you may remember the car frustration, where a nanny hit our car and we gave her the insurance to sign but her employer never got back to us. We paid nearly 500€ out of pocket and I forgave the nanny the debt (with loud cries and tears in the privacy of my own home). In a twist of fate, the son of this family invited mine to a birthday party not knowing it was our car that was hit. I left a very nice message saying I’d like to understand what happened with the insurance form now that I had her number. And I hope that my insisting a bit still counts as forgiveness. If the woman doesn’t respond I won’t harbour ill feelings towards her. But I don’t think my son will be in attendance.
Then this year, thinking to do the smart thing, I hired a lawyer to set up an LLC in Delaware – to record my book expenses and earnings. That way I could declare my expenses and get a tax break. The thing is, I know how to set up an LLC. I’ve done it before. But I was hiring him for his international tax expertise. He charged me an exorbitant rate, told me any further questions would need to be billed, and was actually WRONG about my ability to use an LLC because I can’t even set up a US business banking account from overseas. So I’ve paid all that money and I’m back to square one. I cried loud and bitter tears over that too – over the unfairness of it all.
Many of you have read my smashing the plate post about one of our infrequent marital fights. What I haven’t mentioned on my blog – but what we talked about in our recent church marriage retreat – was another fight we had a week after that episode. My husband was supposed to attend a parent-teacher meeting for one of our children and he knew about it 2 weeks in advance, but only told me he couldn’t go a couple hours before the appointment was supposed to take place (because of a call he knew about longer than 2 weeks). It didn’t help that he came to see me with his earphones in and the conference call on mute. (More on that in a minute, but my husband and I are good). 🙂
What all this made me realise, particularly the relentless unfairness of it all, is how much life is not going my way and how much I hate it. I mean, come on! Getting cheated in one area can be overcome. But getting cheated in three? And feeling my husband has let me down not only once, but twice? Without my perceiving it, a quiet murmur of discontent towards God – a how dare you, God! – began to raise its head.
I mentioned this weekend we had a marriage retreat through our church. Wanna see where it was held?
Uh yeah. In a château!
And do you want to see what we had for dinner? (If you can read French)
A four-course meal!
We also got keepsakes.
6 slips of paper each to fill out date ideas. We pull one every month.
What was so astonishing about the retreat was that this was all accomplished on a very affordable budget so everyone could participate. It was awe-inspiring to hear the messages – yes! But to be surrounded by so much beauty as we strengthened our marriages and fellowshipped with each other was super encouraging.
I know this is a major detour from the topic at hand, but allow me to show you some other photos. This is the room where we had classes, ate dinner, and danced.
This is where the women went when we split into two groups.
Here are the old back steps from this 18th century chateau.
(leading to the suites)
The dining room.
Out of the 36 couples in attendance, a lucky two would pull the key for a suite.
Guess who pulled the key?
This! This amazing room was ours!
This was our view!
These were the old built-in closets /cupboards.
Here is the fabric brocaded wallpaper.
I cried from the sheer joy of it all. Matthieu and I had been asked to speak at the retreat on one of the chapters from the book, Sacred Marriage, by Gary Thomas. We chose the chapter on how sin is revealed in the marriage (seriously – the spotlight follows you everywhere), and how to let it bring you closer rather than making you want to flee from such uncomfortable reflections.
We did not hold back. I shared about my plate-smashing experience, and my husband shared how it took an hour to figure out what he was going to say when he called Jesus to let him know it was unacceptable for him not to return our phone calls. Afterwards, some of the brothers came up to Matthieu to give him some advice, and some of the sisters reminded me not to smash my dishes when I sat down to breakfast. Ha! That’s family for you. 🙂
I shared how hurt and mad I was that he had forgotten the parent-teacher meeting, and how abandoned I felt that he wasn’t there for the family. He read out loud the text I sent him, basically telling him it would be a good night to work late since I didn’t want to see him for dinner. (ouch)
Guys, I know it sounds rough, but we made up from the fight in 10 minutes because my husband refused to back away from my brutality and also showed his repentance by his deeds. Everyone howled with laughter as we mimicked our fight because it was clear we were not in it any longer – we had come through it. Our minister thanked us afterwards for our “terrifying vulnerability,” as he laughed and hugged us.
After we shared our own story, my husband spoke about his discovery that the Hebrew root for Genesis 2:18 : “I will make a helper suitable for you” actually translates to, “I will make a helper against you.” And the word against has a duality of meaning, like it does in English. You can be against one another in opposition. Or you can be against one another in support. Like you would lean against a tree. The opposition from being against one another brings you closer as you’re forced to work through it, until you can lean against one another once more. The resulting bond is tighter than ever.
The day before we left for the marriage retreat, I cried over the lawyer’s perfidy in the morning and practised what I was going to say to the mom whose nanny smashed my car in the afternoon. My husband was in attendance for both. Eventually, I stopped talking and looked at him. “Honey,” I said. “The problem is that I feel entitled … like I don’t deserve all these bad things that are happening to me. I feel like God should be handling all these worries and not dumping them on me. But then again, who am I? I’m no better than a refugee or someone who’s choices are limited because of the color of her skin. Am I more entitled than they are? God is letting me see that I’m not entitled to anything. And I think he’s going to keep giving me lesson after lesson until I get it.”
I was a mix of emotions after realising that – repentant about my attitude towards God, and still sorrowful that I couldn’t have whatever I wanted. (I know, I know – I’m not making myself look good here). My husband just gave me a hug, and loved me for my honesty.
So I decided to pray that whoever really needed those suites at the retreat would be the ones to get them. The prayer was sincere, but let me confess right away that when we arrived, there were some keys – not just two … it was not that obvious – that looked a little different than the others, and I did choose one of those with hopes that it might be a suite. Despite that hopeful and somewhat selfish move on my part … despite the fact that I am often a brat of no small proportion …
God still said, YOU. You are the one who needs it. You are the girl that’s going to get to stay in this amazing room. I cried all weekend from happiness at being shown grace in this way, and sorrow from my crabby, how dare you, God heart. I never stopped being amazed over this room that befit a prince and princess – and the fact that we were allowed to stay there. It reminded me that with God we are entitled to everything! What he has planned for us is way, way more than we could ask or imagine.
But our entitlement is always on his terms, not ours.