I currently have 0 unread messages in my email inbox. This may not be shocking to you, but if you tell my husband, he will probably fall over. Before you start thinking too highly of my organizational skills, however, you might want to know how I accomplished it.

It all started with my Zoom small group meeting last week — we are currently studying Seculosity. (Highly recommend the new revised paperback version with the discussion questions, by the way!) We were on the technology chapter, and the discussion question asked, “What are some ways that your technology serves you? What are some ways that you serve your technology?” Some people mentioned the dings on their phones, replying to text messages, checking emails, and then someone mentioned that little red notification number. Even though I was not planning on sharing this (it’s not something I am proud of), at the mention of email and the red notification number I confessed, “You guys don’t even want to know how many unread emails I have right now.” They looked like they sincerely did not want to know, but I told them anyway: 2,915

There was a collective groan, and I laughed, but at that moment I realized how unfunny I actually think it is and how much of a burden it is to see that number climb everyday (although I have become accustomed to ignoring it). The amount just got so out of hand that the thought of actually catching up became an impossibility. My husband, on the other hand, is very diligent about keeping his inbox at 0 and wears it as a badge of honor. But still, I wonder if the level of servitude is the same on both his and my ends of the spectrum.

I thought this comment of mine would be a quick little fun fact, we would laugh, and then we would move on. But my group members seemed genuinely concerned for me. Then one of my friends offered a suggestion that blew my mind: she asked in the sweetest, most non-ridiculing voice, “Have you ever considered just selecting all of the unread emails and marking them as read?”

I was in silent shock for a moment wondering if that was even allowed. I finally answered, “No. No, I had not considered that. But that is a really good idea!”

Suddenly, I was free from email debt and servitude. The immediate joy that I felt made me realize that the weight of this burden was heavier than I was admitting. The debt of my email deficit was paid. 

This was one of those surprising “aha” gospel moments for me. It was instantaneous freedom. It may not be the most responsible way to deal with a problem, but the fact is, by clicking “mark as read,” I get the credit for reading 2,915 emails without having to do it. My whole being resists this. I don’t want to do it because I should have to go through every single one of those. I should remain a slave to my inbox because that is what I deserve.

Thankfully, God is not interested in giving us what we deserve. We are the ones who struggle with anyone receiving something that they did not earn. Fairness and judgment sneak their way up to being our top priorities, but the scandal of the gospel is that Jesus did not get what he deserved. He was born, lived, died, and rose, thinking not first of fairness, but of you.

Jesus says about himself, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mt 20:28). Jesus came to serve and to free us from servitude to all things with which this world tries to enslave us, whether that is email, real mail — another thing I struggle with! — the news, politics, our phones, food, work, parenting (just read the subtitle of Seculosity!). We are no longer slaves to those things because, like the “mark as read” button, God’s amazing grace gives us credit for what we did not accomplish, because accomplishing our own freedom was an impossibility.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. (Eph 2:8-9)

God reminded me of this powerful and undeserved grace through my out-of-control email inbox. I am thankful to be free of this burden. However, if you have sent me an email and never received a response, you may want to send it again.