As Christians, we are called to be selfless. This is very easy for us to do in our actions. We can give money to greater causes and donate to someone’s GoFundMe. We can volunteer our time to help someone move out of their house or to watch their children while they go on a date night. We can say nice things to others and prepare them handwritten cards and meals and we can invest our time and resources into activities that give back to others and solve larger social problems.
But, to truly be selfless I think requires a little more than these actions, but ultimately it is the interior of our hearts that speak to our characters. When we look at the life of Jesus, he not only DID selfless acts (gave all of his food away, washed the feet of the disciples, died on the cross…), but he also practiced selflessness through his thoughts, his prayers, and his understanding of God’s larger plan. Of course, in our physical states, we need to continue doing these selfless acts–it is not to say that volunteering and donating is not important–it certainly is–and that helps us to understand this trait of selflessness (in dance, we say ‘fake it until you make it’–you wear the mask, put on the disguise, pretend to be something you perhaps are not for a while until eventually, those traits and behaviors become a make up of your character and your innate beings). But what would happen if we turned our internal lives into selflessness as well? In our Bible studies, we discuss so much of what we think God wants US to do, and where we think God is positioning US, and what God is intending to teach US (which is a totally valid and important conversation to have–after all, each of us is designed to be a puzzle piece that completes a final picture), but these are all inherently selfish conversations to have. What would happen if we shifted our focus away from ourselves, and onto God’s larger picture?
What am I praying about?: When I dissect what I actually pray about, most of the time it is for myself. Even though I may think my prayers are Christ like (I’m no longer asking for material items or wealth or a better nose…), most of the time, my praying does revolve around things for myself–I’m asking for courage to face a situation, for endurance to overcome an obstacle, patience while I wait for an outcome. Even though I *think* those are the kinds of prayers God wants us to have to prepare our hearts, asking for those things are inherently selfish. Even when I pray for those around me, it inherently is a little selfish, because when my intimate circle suffers, I suffer. But, what if we shifted our prayer life away from what I want and what I need and what my family desires, but rather, about asking God to help us to care about the lives of those we have no obligation for?
Where am I situating myself in God’s plan?: When I’m thinking about God’s plan for me, I’m trying to think of how that plan extends to just me–where I’m supposed to go, who I am supposed to talk to, what I am supposed to do in order to fulfill MY place in God’s plan, but maybe that plan isn’t always centered on me. I mean, of course, God has plans for me–He has plans for each of us, and we all must participate because otherwise, the fabric of the world is thrown off. But, God, the Controller of the Universe, has a lot of moving pieces and parts that He is trying to adjust at just the perfect time for everyone, so sometimes maybe the timing I want for myself or the desires I am asking for are not determined by ME, but rather, the larger picture. Maybe I am having to wait for an answer to something, because He first must give someone else that answer first. Maybe I am being asked to stay somewhere, so that I can be a placeholder while He works out the details for someone else, and then gets to me. Maybe I am being asked to take a job, date a guy, befriend an acquaintance, buy a house in a certain location, etc. because God is working out someone else’s plan and THEN will work on mine.
Who is the focal point of this lesson?: When I’m faced with an obstacle or a challenge, perhaps it is not ME that is supposed to be the center focus (yes, of course God presents obstacles for us to undergo in order to teach us lessons and to train us to be obedient, humble, graceful servants). But, maybe it is also about someone else learning a lesson. Maybe I was not selected for that team, because there is someone else who requires the feeling of success and accomplishment instead. Maybe I am taxed with confronting someone with that issue, not because I am supposed to suffer from the confrontation, but rather, that person is supposed to learn from my humble and graceful nature. Maybe I didn’t win that offer on that house, not because I am not a good person and don’t deserve, but rather, there is someone else who requires the space more than I do.
As C.S Lewis once wrote, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself; humility is thinking of yourself less. And, as Margaret Thatcher “might” have once said, “Watch your thoughts for they become words. Watch your words for they become actions. Watch your actions for they become…habits. Watch your habits, for they become your character. And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny! What we think we become.” Perhaps by reflecting on the interiors of our thoughts–what we pray for, where we see ourselves situated in the larger plan, to whom lessons are intended for–we can truly see how our existence fits into the larger fabric of the world.