Welcome to Jerkville, Population Me

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All I wanted to do was to take my family out for dinner. That’s how these things start.

It was a bad week for allergies here. My wife takes a particular medication for them, and we tried OTC solutions to no avail. We would have to bite the bullet because the longer her allergies persisted, the greater the likelihood she’d wind up with a sinus or ear infection. (With it being ragweed season, just about everyone we know is suffering to some extent.)

I priced the medicine last month: $65 for one month. So I swallowed hard and walked into the pharmacy only to have them hand me the pills and say, “$88.99.”

“Excuse me?” I said, my heart suddenly pounding. “Last month they were $65!”

“That was last month,” the woman said.

Kiss dinner out goodbye.

The drive home was a case of the grumblies. And trust me, I can grumble with the best of them.

By the time I’d gotten home, though, I’d found a solution. I’d received a $25 gift certificate to my son’s favorite restaurant a couple weeks ago. We would just spend that gift certificate. Problem solved.

Or maybe not…

Our church sponsors an appreciation picnic for all the church volunteers. As part of the worship team, I qualify, so my family had fun being served by the elders and pastor. A nice time.

Someone arranged a puzzle game at the picnic that required people to match some visual presentations of objects with well-known phrases. A boy I’ll call Nate came running up to me, saying, “Dan, I want to be on your team. Can I be on your team, please?”

I told him it wasn’t really a team event. Since the first person to complete the puzzle won, working as a team defeated the whole idea. I couldn’t help him and still win.

“But I want to win,” he said. “I’ll be on your team. You and I are a team.”

“I don’t know that I’ll win, Nate,” I said. “A lot of people are playing.”

“I really want to win, Dan. I know you’ll win.”

While I appreciated his faith in me, what could I do? I thought if I just ignored him a little, he’d forget about the whole thing. That failed miserably. I then tried convincing him of the truth that neither of us would win if we tried to solve the puzzle together. He’d wind up losing anyway.

“Why don’t you try doing the puzzle yourself,” I said.

“But I want to win,” he replied, already looking crushed.

Now the thing you need to know about Nate is that he doesn’t have a dad. He’s got some other siblings, too, and his mom’s had some tough times. I’ve tried to be there for them as much as I can, but I never feel as if I’ve done enough.

“You’ll win, Dan,” he said as the game was starting. “I’ll be on your team.”

About five minutes later, I raised my hand. “Done.” The gamekeeper checked my answers and handed me the $25 restaurant gift certificate.

“We won, Dan,” Nate yelled. “We won!”

He went over to the gamekeeper, his round face beaming, and asked, “What did I win?”

“Nate, honey,” she said in as comforting a voice as she could muster,”I think someone else won. I don’t have any other prizes.”

“But I’m on Dan’s team. Don’t I get anything?” You could wring the angst out of his words.

I can’t stand to see kids crushed. Even though I know life runs roughshod over us all, there’s something about the pain that kids feel that turns me to mush.

I called his slumped-shouldered self over.

“Hey, we’ll take your family out and we’ll all eat together, ” I said. “How does that sound?”

If Van Gogh had dabbled with florescent oils, he could not have painted a brighter countenance than the one that shone on the face of that kid.

End flashback.

Holding that bottle of pills that cost me 40 percent more than I’d anticipated, that bottle of pills I knew cost about $1.50 to produce, that bottle of pills that wiped out my dinner plans and the hope that I had to be alone with my family that evening, I stared at the gift certificate and said to myself, How would Nate know if I spent this right now? He’s a kid. He’s probably already forgotten what I said.

So I seethed. I thought about all the times that I’d canceled my plans so that someone else could benefit. I considered that other families go on vacation all the time, but we didn’t because we were always saving our money to help someone else. Someone who can’t pay her electric bills. Someone who can’t pay for his medicine. Someone who can’t pay the mortgage this month. Always some sick, elderly, homeless, fatherless someone needing something else.

And what about all those people who go away to their vacation homes or who have season passes to amusement parks? Those people with kids who never seem to disappoint them because they don’t have to say no when little Johnny or Janie says, “Dad, let’s go to Disneyworld!” What’s their deal? They get to do all these fabulous things while we never do. Why, again, don’t we?

Then that awfulness rises up inside me. I wish they’d all go away, every last one of them. Those that have and those that have not. Lemme have my stuff. Even if it’s not much, I want it to be mine and not someone else’s. And I hope all those folks who seem to always have money to burn likewise burn in hell for it.

It’s all too easy to hate, isn’t it?

The thing about being an S.O.B. is that it runs to the core of who one is. Welcome to Jerkville, population me.

I looked at that gift certificate in my hand, then tucked it back in the drawer for a time when Nate and his family could enjoy it with us. We ate a frozen pizza that night.If not me, then who?

And when I think

Of God, His son not sparing,

Sent Him to die,

I scarce can take it in

That on the cross,

My burden gladly bearing,

He bled and died

To take away my sin.

Who am I? Who are you? Do we realize what we’ve been given?

I know I don’t always get it. These days, it’s hard to see what the future holds, so I want to hang on to my little kingdom more tightly than ever. I don’t want to receive e-mails from people telling me that they’re about to go down unless someone, anyone helps—only to look around and see me, alone, standing in the on-deck circle. Me. You know, the one with the supposed home-run swing for the little girl dying of leukemia, or the old lady who needs someone to look after her because her mind is slowly fading along with her carpeting.

Here’s a depressing truth: I’m not the only one populating Jerkville. It’s not God’s ideal resort location, but it sure seems that a lot of people cool their heels there. Sadly, some never wise up enough to catch the Gospel Train out of town. Worse, some permanent residents consider themselves future inhabitants of heaven. I pray they’re not disappointed.

When I think of what Christ did for me, how can I say no to the Christ who shows up in need on my doorstep, to the Christ in the neighbors who lost a child and need someone to grieve with them, to the Christ in the little boy without a dad who wants to win this time because he’s lost so many times before? I may not have the perfect solution to their needs, but I’ll at least try to help because I have been given so much.

God help me, I’m slowly leaving Jerkville. There’s no life there and never has been.

I hope I’m not the only one getting out of town.

39 thoughts on “Welcome to Jerkville, Population Me

  1. Whatever it is, that post had it!

    I’ve been to Jerkville more than once. Enough to know, left to myself, I’d be a permanent resident. Hopefully, the effect of Christ in my life will keep me an illegal alien.

    Very seriously, that may be the best thing I read that you’ve written.

  2. francisco

    What is the difference between ‘just doing it’ and ‘doing it gladly’? I guess it is obvious. The last time my roommate asked me to give him a ride to work so that he could stay longer in our church’s picnic. It was to going to be midnight. Could I say no? Yes. Did I want to say no? Yes. But I say yes to him. He replied ‘well thank you for giving me a ride’. I replied ‘thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve you’

    Now, you have to realize that my roommate usually rides his bike 30 minutes to work every day and 30 minutes on the way back. And also that he has an illness that manifests once in a while…(go figure)

    I did not want to go pick him up, you see? I love a hassle-free life and not being inconvenienced by anybody. But there I was on my way to pick him up. Asking God to purify my rotten heart…when I arrive (3 minutes late) he was waiting for me, stepped in the car and said: “thank you my brother in Christ. You are a nice person”. And I immediately replied: “No, but I am the worst sinner that I know”. If he were to know what I was thinking, would he forgive me? That was what I was thinking…

    And yes, I have to be grateful to God that He did not kill me in my sleep yesterday…certainly his mercies toward me are new every morning. Without that I could not keep going…

    • Francisco,

      Yeah, “don’t hassle me” is a big problem with us. Unfortunately, our threshold for being hassled is pretty darned low. I pray that looking to the cross cures us of crying about being hassled.

  3. Readers,

    If any of you live near Winston-Salem, Charlotte, or Greensboro, North Carolina, could you drop me a private e-mail? I need help helping someone who lives in that area and your input would be greatly appreciated.

    Also, if you know of any online mapping software that enables you to link two map points together as a single reference, I’d like to hear about it. Last year, I tried to start a program to help others by matching them up with Godbloggers and their churches, but I could not find a mapping resource that could do this. I’ve not done another request for info on this in the last few months, so things might have changed. Let me know if you know of anything that can do this.

    Thanks in advance,

    Dan

  4. kristie

    Came to you by way of Amy’s Humble Musings. Thanks for this great – and challenging – post. We are involved in an inner city church, where there is no shortage of needs. Resentment can breed all too easily if we do not preach ourselves the gospel again and again…and again.

      • We’ve been trained not to cry, Dan. One of the many freeing things in my conversion 25 years ago this October was the occasional ability to release emotion via tears. Would that it were even easier than it is.

        • Bill,

          Honestly, I cry a lot less than I used to and part of the reason is that a large subculture of Christians in this country reinforces the macho stereotype that “strong men” don’t cry. Instead, they take out those emotions by strangling an elk or climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro without ropes. In too many cases, the worst thing you can do as a man is to look “weak.”

          And yeah, I don’t much like having my masculinity called into question, but there you go!

  5. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God–through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. Romans 7:24-25

    Dan – Thank you for that transparent and convicting post.

    Francisco – I know exactly what you mean. Thanks for sharing.

    • Don,

      I wrote a few weeks ago that some Christians are stuck always thinking of themselves as sinners and rarely (if never) as saints. That’s a real problem.

      But we can also fall into callousness toward others by thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought. And thinking more highly of ourselves usually comes at the expense of thinking about others at all.

      Therein lies the problem.

  6. David Riggins

    “The Lord loveth a cheerful giver” has resonance far beyond money. I know I don’t give too terribly cheerfully. It’s a kind of irony that I grumble when helping someone, begrudging my time. As if it were mine to give. Well said, Dan. Jerkville, I believe, is a crowded metropolis. May we ever be eager to leave.

  7. It’s more than a good post. God is speaking. He is awakening us again to what is really close to His heart. That we would truly manifest an accurate representation of who He is because the cause in His heart becomes the cause in our heart.

    I identify so much with what you are sharing here…

  8. AW

    Oh Dan,
    You hit on another good one here. I have found myself in Jerkville on more than one occasion. Trying not to dwell there, though. At times the sheer volume of need is overwhelming and exhausting.

    • AW,

      The sheer volume of need IS overwhelming. I’ve been trying to help a woman in great financial need, but I’ve not been able to find any answers for her predicament. Yet today I walked through a $2 million home. The contrast is stark, to say the least.

  9. Amy Heague

    Thank you.
    Came here via Sarah’s Accidental Blog, & boy am I glad I did.
    You woke me out of my little jerkville pity party.
    Man we serve an awesome God, how is it that I continue to be such a ‘private’ jerk! I am working on it!

    • Amy,

      The best way to work yourself out of being a jerk is to die to self. In any culture that’s hard to do, but in one as self-centered as ours, darn near impossible unless the Lord intervenes BIG time.

  10. bob3

    At last, I finally found something I can disagree with you on.

    I kept expecting the story to say you spent the gift on your family without Nate and later regretted it. That’s not what happened?

    You think Christ couldn’t wait to die a hideous death because He loved us so? Did He go to the cross or Gethsemane with cheerfulness? What good is sacrifice if it is not a sacrifice? Which is God more pleased with – obeying when you love doing it or when you’d rather not do it but will do it anyway ?

    Does the sacrificial act of the cross become less because He asked the Father to take the cup from Him ?

    Put the whips back in the closet. This wasn’t the time to chain yourself to the whipping “post”.

    • Peyton

      bob3, you miss the point — both of Dan’s post and of Jesus’ suffering. Of the latter we read,

      who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. Heb 12:2, KJV

      Of Dan, and “Nate” for that matter, I just say, you don’t understand the depths of the situation. This is not a time to be “one up” on Dan.
      Dan, thanks for your courage to post this. And please forgive me for giving you cheap advice.
      Peyton

      • bob3

        friend,

        I understand well the depths of the situation. Momentary flashes of selfish negative thoughts are not unforgivable if a believer is in a behavior modification mode. But lets just agree to disagree. Your comments are very vague and could be construed as insulting. We are all merely stating our thoughts and not one upping another.

        take care

  11. Connie Reagan

    My first thought was maybe you should call around to different pharmacies…I used to be on medication and it was shocking to me how different the pricing was at different pharmacies.

    As to the point of the post…I have been there more times than I care to admit. What’s worse is I know that the real solution is to totally die to those reasonable desires to have something that is “my own.” Nope, haven’t gotten there yet.

    Meanwhile my prayer for you is that God would bless your socks off in a totally unexpected way…..somehow I suspect He’ll answer that.

      • Dee

        Dan, There have been many times that we could not afford prescription medication because we were uninsured. I discovered that Walgreens has a program that covers some of the cost of prescriptions for those who cannot afford them. After that discovery, I would ask if they had a “coupon” when a medicine was more than I could afford. If Walgreens can do it, I am certain others can, too. I don’t know if this info will help you, but it sure helped me.

  12. Rachel Hanna

    First time someone’s blog has made me cry (positive tears, at least!):-) Man I love that hymn. Truer words, stripped to bare humility were never spoken than those. Think I need to get off the computer now and spend some time adoring our awesome God. Thanks for posting.
    Rachel.

  13. AmeriKan

    Dan, found you via slw and pcsmythe.

    Jerksville…mmh. This nearly gripped me with fear (of God) and horrible conviction. I have a Wisetrack sermon by John Wesley entitled, WHO WILL YOU DENY? I had to get it back out and reread it…something I do ever so often but not often enough. Wesley says, “Denying ourselves and taking up our cross isn’t a little side issue…it is absolutely necessary to becoming or continuing to be a disciple of Jesus. It’s useless to try to follow the One who was crucified without taking up our own cross daily. Unless we deny ourselves, it will be impossible not to deny the Lord.” That’s just the beginning.

    When I was backslidden, I lived permanently in Jerksville. Just when I think I have left for good, something of the old nature rises up and tries to demand its own way, again. Thank God, Paul said, “I die daily.” He had to buffet the flesh every day. PTL for the conviction of the Holy Spirit and that we have a close enough relationship with Him where He lets us know when we are veering off course. The scarey part is when we have no conviction.

    Thanks, Dan for sounding the alarm.

  14. Hi Dan, I think I know Jerkville very well thank you. Have we met?

    My wife and I came to the conclusion that everything we have is the Lord’s. So we opened our home to take care of people in need. Usually they stay for about three months. The longest thus far, was a year. Problem. We do not have a lot of money. I think the low point for me, was when I gave money to the person staying with us to go on a holiday and I could not buy Christmas presents for my kids. The first year was mostly a time spent angry at God. And people would come and say “Oh you are such wonderful people for doing this” If they could only read my mind…..:-)

    Now several years later I’m thinking I will never leave Jerkville, but you know what? Jesus is there too. Seems I cannot get away from Him.

    Thanks for sharing. You speak my mind….:-)

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