Jesus doesn’t owe us, however it may feel

On Sunday night, my home became a house of sickness. First, my son came downstairs to tell us he felt sick. We sent him back upstairs, with our deepest sympathy and a bucket, because he’d probably be best lying down and resting. He decided shortly thereafter to come back down, without the bucket, to tell us he was now feeling worse. Our first question: where is the bucket? Why, back upstairs of course! So, we encouraged him – a little more frantically this time – to get himself up nearer the bucket. With the inevitability the whole episode had written all over it, mere steps (but not arm’s reach) from the bucket, disaster struck.

Alas, we thought as we cleared up his floor, and door, and wall, these things happen. It was not his fault. Obviously not bringing the bucket with him was his fault. But he can’t help feeling sick. We’ll do our best and then hopefully things will looks better in the morning for all of us. He went back to bed and we headed downstairs.

Minutes later, we heard a child screaming. This time, not my son, but my daughter. She has woken up and vomited. Fantastic. Thankfully, she did it all over her bed and somehow managed to avoid her duvet and pillows. So, at least the clean up was relatively contained. But the clean up, sadly, takes time. As did the other one. After a particularly busy Sunday, our evening off together seems even more important and, unfortunately, it has been tanked by children getting ill.

But, no matter. We have a day off on Monday to look forward to so, it could be worse. But, of course, it is half term. The children are going to their grandparents. Which means a trip in the car for us. Let’s hope they’re doing better this morning. Early signs, all looked well.

But then, of course, two seconds in the car and my son is sick again. At least we were close enough to home to turn back, bin his sick and get a fresh bag (it really was seconds after setting off and we had the foresight to bring a sick bag – go us!) But then, at the far end, my daughter is ill again. Not throwing up thankfully. But still quite sick and unwell. That is most unfortunate. The morning of the day off is underway to an inauspicious start.

It all feels as though we are managing this manfully. Nobody is getting short with anyone. Everyone is very sympathetic. Parenting goals. But hark, what fresh hell is this? I begin to feel a bit queasy on the drive over. Which, naturally, as you’re driving the thought of violently throwing up is neither welcome nor without its dangers. My wife drove home to avoid this being a return problem. But, of course, once the sickness set in, it was there for the day and I was up for doing very little. A day off that was less than excellent. As I write it, I only need Liverpool to lose the Merseyside derby – and on current form that is a live possibility – and it will cap something of a day we could have done without.

Of course, I’m not going on about all this because you need to know about me being sick (you don’t, obviously). Nor because I need sympathy for it (I don’t, honestly). It is because I am reminded of something (I think) John Hindley once said. He talked about a time he was frustrated that his young daughter kept coming downstairs and not going to bed, and he ended up getting quite angry. As he reflected on it, he came to realise he was actually angry at the Lord. He felt he had been busy about the Lord’s work all week and God, frankly, owed him this night off and it was being ruined.

I empathise with that. I don’t think any of us were angry or frustrated with each other. I don’t think (this time) we were angry with the Lord for not giving us our evening or day off. But I do know it is a live possibility. I am quite sure I have felt that way before. Lord, I have done all this, all week, for you. Surely, you can give me just one night off. In fact, you owe me Lord. It’s so easy to do. I think I managed to avoid doing that this time because I remembered what John had said (and I don’t remember when or where he said it). But I am conscious that I do exactly what John did all the time because it is easy to think God owes me because of stuff I’ve done for him.

Sometimes, it isn’t stuff we’ve done for Jesus – like evangelism or bible studies or whatever – but it is sin we’ve shunned for Jesus. Lord, I’ve been working hard to honour you by avoiding this sin. I’ve successfully not given into temptation. Surely, Lord, you owe me. Surely, this break I’m convinced I need, you will give me because of what I’ve done for you. Come on Lord, where’s the payback?

It is such a problematic view for so many reasons. Not least, the Lord doesn’t owe us anything. And yet, he has already given us everything in his Son. He does not work on a quid pro quo basis. He works on a grace and unmerited favour basis. He doesn’t owe us anything, he graciously gives to us freely of his own volition. Our works for him are not supposed to be for the purposes of getting stuff from him, but because we love him, and that only because he first loved us. Just as my children aren’t expected to do stuff in our home because they want stuff off me, but because they love my wife and I. We want them to help because they are part of our family, not because they are hoping to get some stuff and think they’re owed it from us.

So, the Lord doesn’t owe me a night off. He doesn’t owe me a day off. He doesn’t owe me good health. If anybody owes anyone anything, we owe him everything because of what he has done for us in Christ. But wonderfully, he doesn’t insist on anything from us regardless. He just wants us to love him as he loves us. It’s hard to argue with that and even harder to insist that because he hasn’t given me something I’d have preferred – in this case a happy, healthy, sick-free, easy day off – somehow he hasn’t give me my due. He has given me far more than all that, and I am (at least today) content with that… Until next time, of course.