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Rights or blessings?

By Amanda King

A&E was busy. 13 people in the queue (we were seventh), 30 waiting in the main area, at least 20 in the children’s waiting room. A determined woman, her chic leather boots striding from the children’s area, approached reception, flinging her hair back to get attention. The harassed administrator broke off her conversation with the person at the front of the queue.

“We have been here an hour and a half and we have not been seen. Others have been called before us. We have been waiting too long. What is the problem?”

The administrator’s gesture encompassed the whole department. “We are very busy, as you can no doubt see. No one has been put in front of you. You will be seen to.”

A shoulder jerked back in anger and an eye roll accompanied an emphatically muttered, “For heaven’s sake!” She strode back into the children’s area.

Once there ourselves, we witnessed the lady and her husband moan about the service (or lack of it), stuff the complaints box so full there was no room left and act impatiently towards their children. Finally, the mother stood up, said “This is ridiculous. I need my sleep.” and, leaving her children and husband behind, went to one of the cubicles along from the waiting area, swished the curtain closed and lay down on the gurney!

Eventually, they were served, the nurse scurrying to their chosen hideaway, their disgruntlement of the wait made known to her (and all else who were waiting). By that time, much resentment emanated from the waiting room towards the cubicle.

Leaving at 1:30am, we felt so grateful; a deep appreciation for the people dedicated to caring for us in the dark of night when we couldn’t do it on our own. We were truly blessed.

But how often am I not like that, especially when things do not go my way? I am most aware of my “rights” (or lack of them) when I am angry, do not get what I want, see someone else have something I don’t, or lose something I’ve had or expect to have. Losing my freedom to go to the shops or have a pint at my local, or my lack of employment or health can all make me aware of my rights, of what I deserve. Perhaps I am better at hiding my sense of self-entitlement than that couple in A&E, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

We’re familiar with Jonah because of the whale. But the last chapter of the book is my favorite. Jonah is painfully honest in his account. He is angry with God for sparing the Ninevites. God asks him, “Do you have a right to be angry?” Instead of answering, Jonah decides to sulk in a cubicle in the desert east of the city, until God changes His mind. God grows a gourd to shade Jonah, easing his discomfort, and Jonah’s very happy about this. Yet the next day, God has a worm destroy the vine, and brings a scorching wind and blazing sun so great that Jonah declares, “It would be better for me to die than to live.” God responds, “Do you have a right to be angry about the loss of the gourd?” and Jonah replies, “I do, I am angry enough to die!” God gently reminds him, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow.” He goes on to explain about the preciousness of the Ninevites, compared to a plant, “But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right from their left. Should I not be concerned about that great city?” (Jonah 4:5-11)

Foolish Nineveh has no right to be saved. Crucially, Jonah does not either, nor even the right to be angry. As a Christian, I am aware that none of us do. Our only “entitlement” is hell. But like Nineveh and Jonah, God amazingly chooses to bless us, too. His Son, Jesus Christ, took what we deserved onto Himself, and left us with the “right” to Heaven, something we can’t achieve on our own. No matter our circumstances, we are experiencing blessing, hard as it may seem sometimes. Our “rights” are blessings? We must maintain that perspective.

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