There were many times, as a child, that I was on the receiving end of some serious, capital punishment.
Ok - that's a bit dramatic...
...but if you'd had seen my dad, you would cower in fear at the sheer magnitude of this man's strength. A former right guard at U of Penn, hair covering his muscular chest and back, and towering at a height that seemed to be as tall as the Empire State Building - Jeff Ellis was a force to be reckoned with. Don't get me wrong, that strong and sturdy man was also a loving, tender Father. But along with that warm embrace - my rebellious rear-end often needed to learn about the strong and sturdy Father from EXPERIENCE.
However, this time - I wasn't the one getting the discipline. No... this time it was my older brother, Justin - and there was no way I was going to miss any second of it. I grabbed my popcorn, crouched down on the edge of our spiral staircase and watched through the white, banister bars as the action went down.
I heard lots of commotion - mostly coming from Justin. There they were - a standoff in the middle of my brother's bedroom - and it was an obviously unfair fight. Justin was whining and carrying on about something, but I didn't know what. To be honest, I didn't really care - all I knew was, that type of attitude was begging for a whooping. And then - it happened.
My dad... had enough.
What I witnessed exceeded my wildest dreams and imaginations. My father - you know - the burly, Brawny man - grabbed my brother by the arms and lifted him up in the air - looked him in the eye and said these words in the most intimidating and frightening way I have ever heard: "don't you ever talk back to me again, boy - this is happening, and you will do what I ask."
Just thinking about it sends a shiver down my spine. I'll never forget the look on my brother's face - he was as frozen as a ghost! And after, what seemed like an eternity in the air, my dad set him down on the bed and walked out.
You can imagine how fast I ran off those stairs to make sure I wasn't next in line! But before you get all "judgy" concerning the way I was brought up, let me give you a little back-story to what was really going on...
My best friend at the time, Christopher, had just passed away of cancer. He was very young - only 8 or 9 years old. It was devastating to his family, who we were very close to. Christopher's parents were in for a week of hell - figuring out the arrangements for the burial of their own child... something a parent should never have to do. In the meantime - they asked us if it were at all possible for their daughter to stay with us for a few days. My parents eagerly answered "yes" and made sure that everything was set up for her to be taken care of during this difficult time.
The scene I had walked in on was the moment my dad informed my brother that Christopher's sister would need a place to stay... and that place just so happened to be his room.
Justin wasn't a big fan of that idea.
Look - Justin is all grown up now - he's even married, so we know he's more than OK with sharing his room. I also checked with him to make sure I could share this story. But as a 10 year old who was used to having what belonged to him, giving it up was a difficult concept for him to grasp.
HONESTY MOMENT: today, I was 10 year old Justin.
I gave my life to the Lord when I was 16 years old. Yeah - I was a clinically depressed, suicidal pervert who went out looking for fights due to rage... but that's all behind me. We don't need to focus on that, right?
What we DO need to look at is how I've sacrificed a lot to serve God. I have lots of friends who have lived in compromise for years and for SOME REASON, it looks like they're just coasting through life. I've said no to countless opportunities that could have promoted my name and made me "successful" to follow the call of God.
So why does it feel like I'm the one having to give up my "bedroom?"
Isn't it mine? Didn't I earn this? I'm a son... right?
The dichotomy of belonging to God is that, now, we ARE sons - who have inheritance and blessings in Christ Jesus. Just like Justin, we know that we can expect to come home every day and run to our room - that's what sons do. We DON'T expect, however, to have to give that room up for a while and go without something that we're used to. That doesn't sound like any fun.
But what happens when, for some reason, Dad asks for the room back? What happens when a season comes along when it's time for us to give, instead of receive? How's our attitude when we have to go without what we're used to... for the sake of something greater... even when we don't full understand the severity of what's happening behind the scenes?
I'm learning that my reaction to that sort of news reveals what's really in my heart.
I'm learning that my frustration reveals I have forgotten that everything I have is a gift, unearned - not owed.
I think this is why Paul said in Philippians 4:12, "I have learned the secret to being content - whether in plenty, or in lack." When I start believing that God OWES me something because of what I'm used to, I've lost intimacy and have moved into entitlement. Every time I throw a pity-party because a situation didn't turn out the way I wanted it to, I'm moving back into slavery (working for) and away from sonship (living from). The ultimate truth is that I didn't earn the room and I didn't build it. The room never really belonged to me in the first place. It's just a room that's in my Father's house - and He let's me live in it.
It's not wrong to expect the room to be mine. What's wrong is when my expectation becomes entitlement. What's wrong is when I'm asked to go through a season that looks like sacrifice, and I am frustrated because I forget the one who gave everything for me. My prayer is that I will have eyes to see the bigger picture of what my Father is doing behind the scenes and choose to partner with Him instead of throw a pity-party that deserves a stern correction from Dad.
Jared Ellis was called into ministry at the age of 16 years old, after being delivered out of a life of darkness, depression and depravity. He has traveled all over the world, preaching the good news of Jesus Christ and has worked with some of the leading churches in the nation such as Bethel Church and Elevation Church. He pastored in Abilene, Texas for 3 years and grew a youth ministry of 12 students to over 300 - signs, wonders and miracles happening each week. Jared is the author of "Unlocking Your Destiny: Keys To Accessing God's Master Plan For Your Life." He travels full-time as an evangelist and preaches at churches, conferences and events. He is also the GE Director at Christ For The Nations Institute where he teaches and trains Youth Pastors. While at home in Dallas, TX, he serves as a worship leader at Trinity Church.