My husband and I are yet again working our way through the Harry Potter movies together. We recently were gifted a TV by Jesus and it feels like a movie-night-in every single time. (And who doesn’t want to go to Hogwarts at Christmas time?)
In the second one (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, for you muggles who aren’t familiar) a house elf, Dobby hides letters from Harry’s friends, hoping that Harry will think his friends have forgotten about him and that he won’t want to return to school. Dobby knows of a danger that awaits Harry at Hogwarts and hopes that Harry will tell himself a story that isn’t true.
A story that he is forgotten and not cared about.
A story that will lead him to give up his education and stay home.
Thankfully for the sake of the audience staying interested and engaged and Harry’s sake, Harry discovers that Dobby has been hiding the letters and believes what is true about his friends, after all.
How powerful the stories we tell ourselves are. If Harry had believed that his friends had forgotten about him, I wonder if there would have been much of a story left or if there would have been a drastically different ending. I honestly doubt anyone would care much for Harry Potter if he had given up believing truth about his friends and sulked in his room, living with the Dursleys until he was of age.
I was reading about God’s people today in Numbers. After God gave them victory over their enemies in battle, they made their way onward. “And the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” (Numbers 21: 4-5) To quote my friend, Ronald Weasley, “How thick can you get?” Not only did God literally just save their necks in battle, but they have the story wrong about what happened in Egypt.
It isn’t spelled out the way it is in other chapters full of complaints, but the tone implies that God’s people truly believe Egypt is preferable to what their story is now. Their entitled attitudes have changed the story in their minds. They no longer see leaving Egypt as the Lord’s deliverance for them out of their lives as mistreated slaves. They instead see leaving Egypt as a mean trick from the Lord, a bad trade. How quickly Israel starts to tell a story of the Lord not loving them. They see Egypt, not for what it was, but as something good that God unlovingly took from them. They see their temporary discomfort as if that is all there is, forgetting their journey towards the Promised Land.
I cringe as I read these words. I see my own heart’s tendencies to act this way. I too grow impatient and uncomfortable when the Lord isn’t doing things in a way that makes sense to me. Instead of telling the true story of the Lord’s loving kindness, a love that permits pain for my good, I tell a story of self-pity and forget that this is not the end. I forget what the Lord has done for me and all the grace I’ve received. I see my temporary discomfort as if that is all there is.
In Kristen Welch’s book, “Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World,” she shares several confessional stories of her own entitlement. She talks of a Christmas when her husband gave her a heartfelt gift of a pearl necklace in a season where they didn’t have much money. “When he put it around my neck, I said thank you–and then I went to the bathroom and cried. I was disappointed that I only had one gift from him under the tree. Oh boy. I had a lot to learn. I didn’t just want something; I wanted more. And when I became a mom, this attitude spilled over into my early parenting. I wanted my kids to have more, the best. I wanted them to have it all, too…Entitlement didn’t start with my kids. It began with me. I entitled them because I was entitled.” (9-10)
Kristen’s honesty made me want to learn from her as she shares her struggles with gratitude as her kids look around them to see their friends with smart phones or getting “whatever they want” and desiring the same.
I loved the practical suggestions Kristen offers throughout each chapter for parents of kids of any age to help cultivate gratitude and fighting a culture of entitlement. Beyond what to do with entitled kids, Kristen puts responsibility on the reader that gratitude gets cultivated when we set the example. She doesn’t mince words that this will be difficult. She is straightforward that going against what is culturally accepted is always difficult. Choosing what God says is best is hard.
Her words and examples of how much she loves her kids remind me so much of what I see in God. He loves us enough to permit pain and discomfort. He loves us enough to not give us what we want if it isn’t what we need. He loves us enough to do what is good for us, even if it means that we fall out over it. This is truth for all of us. This is the story that is TRUE, whether we choose to tell it or not. We can choose to tell a story of entitlement, a story that says we didn’t deserve what we got. But that story misses the love that is beneath the surface, the love that is found in our God.
Kristen’s words inspire me with the impact of the story I choose to tell with my daily actions:
“I would love for my kids to say one day they are grateful for their lives because their dad and I were grateful for ours. I want them to have memories of me thanking God for all he’s done. I want them to catch me writing thank-you notes and being generous with my time and money because God has been generous with me. But most of all, I want my children to know that we wanted them to resist the current of our culture and choose a lifestyle of gratitude because we love them deeply and completely.” (213)
It isn’t possible to be truly grateful and entitled at the same time. The story of gratitude and the story of entitlement completely oppose each other. My heart finds hope in the knowledge that we get to choose. We get to choose what story we will tell about our circumstances, about our lives, about ourselves, about our God. We get to choose if we will tell the true story, the grateful story or one that omits the Lord’s loving care and provision. We get to decide if we will be grateful or sulk. We get to decide if we want to trust the Lord and his plans or wish for the life we left behind in Egypt. We get to decide if we want to stay home from Hogwarts or if we want to become a wizard.
My prayer is that my heart would tell the true story, the grateful story. I want to tell of the Lord’s kindness even when I can’t see what is coming. I want the story I tell to speak of his love to me, even in my temporary discomfort. I want to tell the story of his provision and grace to me even when it is painful in the moment. I want to become who Jesus meant me to be.
*I would highly recommend Kristen Welch’s book. Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of “Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255