As I write this, I sit cross-legged on my deck.
My laptop is propped atop my favorite pillow, the pillow I’ve had longer than I can even now recall, as a makeshift table. I sit facing the water. Looking Glass Lake, despite its namesake, is a murky and swampy body of water. Cattails and reeds line the entire perimeter.
I like to come out here occasionally to sit, when my world inside becomes scattered and busy and all together too much. I come out sometimes in the evening, sometimes with a glass of wine. Still other times, with a book and a big bowl of popcorn.
The deck is a good place to realign my perspectives, to breathe in and out, and to remember and reflect. The world finally goes quiet and that’s when I can hear from God.
It’s not about you.
This is the truth embedded on my heart today.
People will tell you otherwise, in well-meaning consolations and pep talks, that you deserve this and you are meant to be happy, at whatever the cost. Our society affirms it, the idea that any discomfort or displeasure you face can be changed, and should be changed, the instant it is recognized. If you don’t like your job, you should quit. If your family is dysfunctional, you should distance yourself. You should chase your dreams and run your race. To accomplish anything less would be insufficient and merely settling; you’d miss out on your full potential.
These are noble virtues, healthy even. For, goal-setting and joy are virtues to be sought after, and other times, chased.
Yet, do you also notice how self-revolving this mindset is?
I have fallen captive to this mindset, so I write kindly to my brothers and sisters: if you are a follower of Christ, it is not about you. It stopped being about you the moment you chose Christ, picked up your cross, walked with him. Your job is now to bring him glory, much in the same way he underwent humiliating, humbling circumstances in his call to bring glory to the Father. On the cross he died, suffering for us. On that cross our freedom was bought, and that includes freedom from self.
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God.” -Galatians 2:20
I preach this to my own heart, too: that your life, your job and your talents are not about you. Your happiness is not the end all.
Oh, how often we walk around, entitled. In our best moments we are entitled only to fulfilling careers, sincere friendships, tender children or continuing health. In our worst, we are entitled to this breath and to our own pursuits. Still worse, are the instances in which we act entitled to God’s own love.
This should not be.
The cross should shatter all entitlement. We should treat entitlement like a chain which hinders. By remembering our rightful stance before a perfect and holy God, we recall that apart from Jesus, we have no right to enter the gates of heaven. We are entrants by mercy alone. We should first see ourselves as small and unworthy, the lucky recipients of so great a love. For we have done nothing to earn it.
Do not forget your humble origins, oh sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, “for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
We have all equally fallen. We are all equally in need of grace and rescue.
We can claim nothing as our own.
Still, with sticky fingers and the mentality of children, we reach and reach. We fall into futile thinking when we believe that we are meant to play a greater role than the one we have presently been given, or the one we find ourselves currently living. Like the disciples, we subconsciously ask, “which of us will be the greatest?” Two times* in Luke’s gospel we see the disciples argue among themselves, asking this question. Each one is eager to work miracles and to change hearts, each is eager to live a life worthy of the call to bring heaven to earth. Good things.
Yet, each is also eager to claim part of the glory for themselves, and in that process forgetting the one who, in flesh and sinew and bone, walks presently among them in true humility.
Both times, Jesus’ answer: for it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.
We, in ourselves, do not need to be great. We do not need to be successful, or famous, or well thought of for reasons today’s society deems worthy. No work is too small, no act done unto Christ too insignificant. He will use us, as we are, where we are. His good plans are not limited, nor are they amplified, by our skill or eloquence. God stands alone. He is able to save and use all towards His greater purposes, and He does not show partiality (Romans 2:11, Ephesians 2:9). We are free to sink- ever lower, ever deeper, ever more aware of the grace that immerses us in increasing measures. And as we sink, we know him more, the one who lowered himself from heaven to earth and beyond, in order to claim for us an immeasurable glory. It is not about us. Truly, it never has been.
As I sit here on my deck, the loudest peace cuts through the hum of nature and of crickets chirping. Embarrassment flies away and shame with it. I rest in the proud realization that I am nothing. Yet, all at once, I am also everything; I am one deemed holy and worthy of redemption by Christ himself.
The Christian faith is full of paradoxes that do not contradict, and the kingdom is indeed upside down. A million little deaths to self, we still must daily undergo.
It is not about you.
Yet, he came for you, and that is enough to make life rich.
*Luke 9:46-48; Luke 22:24-30