I have spent a lot of time lately thinking about how I fit and how I matter. I know it sounds terribly self-indulgent, as most concentrated introspection is. But I’ve felt a real need lately to separate how much of what I’ve grown to believe in practice in my life is truly based on Biblical principles and which are really just creations of my culture.
I was born into a culture that places self first. It wasn’t always this way. But if I look now, objectively at the world around me I see many different kinds of people most of which have one major thing in common; everything they do is really about them. Even people of faith seem to buy this idea that it’s really about me. God loves me. Jesus died for me. All of those things are true. Yet I know that what Christians are called to isn’t really about what we can get out of it.
Yes, we matter. Madeline L’Engle said, in her book A Circle of Quiet, “I think I know why astrology has such tremendous appeal. The year and moth and day you are born matters. This gives people a sense of their own value as persons that the church hasn’t been giving them.” Yes. That. I agree whole heartedly. The problem is, it doesn’t stop there.
As a friend of mind said in a church a few Sunday’s ago, it’s not just about what we’ve been saving from but what we’ve been saved for. The western church, especially in the United States has done a pretty good job of highlighting that God cares about us each as individuals. We excel at promoting personal relationship with God. The problem is, we haven’t really talked about what comes next. Part of being totally transformed by the love of Christ is what comes after. We have things to do. It isn’t the same for each of us, and no two transformed lives look exactly alike; we each have unique callings. But we cannot be deceived. We haven’t signed up for fame, fortune and good times. We’ve just willingly become bond servants.
We’ve been saved from slavery, released from prison and the jail door stands open, but when we leave we are binding ourselves as servants to the one who saved us. It is a service of our own choosing and it won’t be easier than our old lives; but it will be better.
I’m realizing more and more that somehow the church has inadvertently bought into the cultural idol of self and the lie of self-esteem. We matter, because He says we do. Nothing I have or do in my life is because of me; it is all because of him. ‘But what about positive self-esteem and healthy self-confident?” The problem with those two things is that they have the word self in them. We are called to be confident, and to feel valued, but not because of who we are, but because of who He is and His great love for us.
I’ve been practicing this faith of mine most of my years on this earth, at various levels of success. Yet over and over again I find myself to be only starting out. So as I find myself moving into this fourth decade of my life and the second decade of my marriage, five years into parenthood; I’m just beginning to realize how much and how easily our values can be and are skewed. I’m not interested in changing others; I want to change myself. When I look at someone like Mother Theresa of Calcutta and I see the world she changed one person at a time. Above and beyond all else I am called to; I am called to set aside my obsession with self and treat each person I encounter with love and respect, the same as I would like to be treated with. I need to stop worrying about looking out for me.
“But don’t be a door mat; take care of you or no one else will.” Last I checked the Bible doesn’t say any of those things. But it does say to turn the other cheek and that the Lord is my provider and my deliverer. What if we just stopped for a little while worrying about ourselves? What if we gave with generosity without worrying about if we would have enough for all the things we want? What if we gave our time and energy without thinking about how it will impact our “me time?” What if we saw ourselves as we are; servants of a loving God, called to love and serve others. It’s not usually glamorous; but it is what we signed up for; we just tend to forget.