I am beginning to realize that the only way that we can become less selfish is by being actively involved in the lives of others. I know that this sounds fairly obvious, but stay with me for a second. Selfishness is a state of mind, which means that in order to no longer be selfish, we need a different point of view. We need to move. I know that usually, this seems backwards. God changes our hearts and our minds, and our actions SHOULD follow. But often, I think we are right there, standing at the ledge that God is asking us to jump from. He tells us to stop being so selfish, to stop worrying so much about what we are going to eat for lunch or whether or not these jeans make us look fat… this is when we most easily back slide into safety. Stepping backwards into selfishness is like self-protection.
Here’s the thing: when we actually begin sharing oxygen with other people, the real challenges of life begin coming out of the woodwork. It is much easier to be nice to my television screen, my computer screen, my dog and my text messages than it is to be nice to other people. This becomes especially difficult when we begin interacting with others on a regular basis. I can be pretty nice to people who I see once a month. Exchanging casualties, sharing small talk… these things are easy, albeit, mind-numbing. These are the people who I never need to argue with because honestly, I don’t care enough about them/they don’t care enough about me to go any deeper. I feel I am not responsible for these people’s well-being, life choices, or spiritual walks. I don’t need to be the iron that sharpens theirs, or vice versa.
However, closeness is what really brings home the nitty-gritty. When I am close to someone, I have to CARE about them. Caring goes further than smiling and nodding, it reaches into the depths of understanding who they are, feeling their pain, and lifting them up. It means that I intercede for them in prayer, and I challenge them when they seem off course. They do the same for me, and thank God for that, because there are a few very strategically placed people in my life who keep me from being the tool I know I am capable of being.
Perhaps, like my friendships, I also find myself a little afraid of getting too close to God. If I get too close, doesn’t that mean He is going to call me out on things? Will I have to become less sarcastic? Will I be led into some jungle to share the Gospel to people who might not like what they hear? Will I never get married? Or even worse, will I marry someone I just don’t like that much? I am trying really hard these days (well, some days) to understand why it is that I think that God wants to wreck my life. Why do I think that everything will be awful if I follow completely after Him? What kind of cracked-out religious view is that? I mean, I know that the majority of the disciples were either stoned, beaten or crucified for spreading the Gospel, and I know that there is actually a possibility that following Christ will lead to something similar for myself. But that isn’t what scares me. What scares me is the fact that God is never going to pat me on the head and tell me to go now, and live the life that NBC tells me to live. He is not going to let me rest easy and live the way the media says is best. I take in media like oxygen or water, and trying to live the way God is asking me to live feels a little like trying to ice skate on gravel. Want to know why? Because He is not okay with my own desire to base my life and future off of selfish intentions.
Oswald Chambers once wrote that if we are going to be ready for Jesus, “we must stop using religion as if it were some kind of a lofty lifestyle–we must be spiritually real.” I think the first step in achieving this readiness is by getting rid of the self-indulgent “Christian” lifestyle that I live as an American. Buying motivational bracelets off of witnesswear.com just isn’t going to cut it anymore. Today, dying to myself and living in Christ will be the only road to success. I will absolutely fail the minute I shut this laptop, because I will be the first thing I think of. The selfishness is that deeply rooted. But perhaps today, God will grant me some small victories. Maybe they won’t be so small. We’ll see.