Sunday, August 5, 2012

Selfless Ambition

I was utterly helpless to stop the tears from falling once they started, and even though I could feel God telling me to forgive myself as He already had, I just couldn't. I was too overwhelmed by the truth of my selfishness and pride as they lay bare and ugly before me.  How could I have been so unknowlingly self-seeking and destructive?  Worse, how could I have been so prideful about a selflessness that simply didn't exist? These were the questions I asked myself one night some time ago after days of praying for God to reveal me to ...well, me.  "God, if there's anything in my heart that grieves You or for which I need to repent, please show me," is essentially what I asked, and although I already knew to be prepared for what He might reveal, I wasn't prepared at all.  As it turns out, I had been pridefully thinking more highly of myself than I ought in a certain circumstance, and in another I had completely sacrificed the well-being of another for my own misplaced selfish gain.  I was so disappointed in myself in that painful moment of clarity, and hearing God tell me I was forgiven only seemed to make me feel worse.  I continued to softly cry, and although I finally mustered the courage to ask God to help me forgive myself, I was determined not to ever fall into those pits again.  Instead, I decided to live the rest of my life with selfless ambition.
Since that night I've been discovering over and over again just how hard it really is to live life according to Romans 12:10 which says to "honor one another above yourselves." (Emphasis mine) We seem to have a "me, me, me" mentality, and it wasn't until God showed me my own that I realized how truly difficult it is to re-train our brains for selflessness.  I've found myself saying "but, God..." more lately than I ever have before.  He will give me an opportunity to act selflessly and it seems that before I can move I have to remind myself that I'm not the center of the universe, which usually starts with the words "but, God..." and concludes with "it's too hard," and to which He replies with "but you said you wanted to live selflessly." Once I'm reminded, things usually start to go uphill, but I would be lying if I said it wasn't still a battle, at least with some people.  See, there are those who are easy to help and others who make me want to go running in the opposite direction.  "But God, did You  hear what she said?" I've often asked Him of one person in particular who He regularly leads me to help, to which He matter of factly replies, "Yes, I did, now go wow me with your selflessness." It turns out our Lord's hearing is perfectly in tact. So is His vision in case you're wondering.  I learned that too after many "God, did you see that!?" questions where I've actually pointed from across a room.  Yes, He saw how awfully we were treated by that friend, or that co-worker/boss, or a family member - and He still wants us to help them.  It's easy to help someone who is always kind, but it takes a devoted servant of the Lord to help those who are less than kind, offensive, rude, or even ungrateful.  Like you, I've experienced both, but I'll say this - when you help someone who isn't at all a challenge to help, who hangs on your every kind word, and who appreciates you more than you probably deserve, you're doing a great thing by helping, and you're no doubt sewing amazing seed into their life.  But  - when you stand firm in Christ and help those who hurt you, bless those who persecute you (Luke 6:28), and pray for and with those who can never repay you, now that's when you're changing not only the other person's life, but also - and especially - your own. 

Some time ago I started serving God in one person's life in particular who, even on good days, I find mostly offensive, selfish, rude, and difficult, not to mention thoughtless and prideful to a fault.  "But God, can I have a new assignment?" I've often pleaded through tears, and then I realized what He was doing.  I'm not just being used to change this person's life, but this person is being used to change mine.  I can honestly say that I've never been so challenged in my walk with Him, at least not as it pertains to a work He's doing through me in someone else's life and vice versa.  I've heard myself say "but God" more times since crossing paths with this person than I've ever said in my life.  "Yes, I heard what was said," "Yes, I know how that made you feel," "Yes, I understand how you hurt," are all responses I've gotten from my loving Father, but the message that always follows is "I love you, keep going," "I love you, keep moving," "I love you, don't give up," and so I go, I move, and I don't give up.  I can feel Him changing me from the inside out, and it hurts.  On the best of days, it hurts.  On the worst of days, it hurts more.  But somehow, through it all, I have His joy, I have His strength, and I have His heart and soul to endure the insults, shake off the frustrations, and overlook the offenses (Proverbs 19:11).  I have Him, and I've discovered that I never have more of Him than when I'm engaged in the selflessly ambitious act of helping the people I want least to help.  It is quite amazingly the most beautiful place in which He and I have ever walked together. 

On the other hand, and as if to give me a sweet reprieve during the challenges of helping the challenging, God recently led me onto the path of a friend from years ago.  She has been an absolute joy to help, and as I've cried tears of happiness on her behalf as I've witnessed her reunite with the Lord, I have been so incredibly blessed to be a part of her journey.  God has spoken words of love, kindness, and redemption into her life through the strokes of my laptop keyboard from across the country, and I've been richly blessed by hers and my reunion, but it hasn't been a challenge for me to love on her and help her because she has been one of the most kind, thoughtful, and grateful recipients of God's love.  She has been warm, appreciative, and generous with her own kind words.  Without even knowing it, she has added solid brick to my own spiritual house by building me up when I was down from exhaustion over helping the more challenging people God has placed in my path.  What a priceless treasure and breath of fresh air she has been. 

In both circumstances, God is leading me to act selflessly, and while the results are different, they are both necessary as we grow in Christ.  One leaves me feeling exhausted and spiritually drained on the tough days and the other pours refreshing waters of life into my spirit and soul. In either case, it's not only to the other person's benefit for me to live my life selflessly ambitious, it's also to my own.  When we strive to live selflessly, it's our very self who ends up richly blessed and rewarded, so the sooner you can take the "me, me, me" out of your day, the sooner you'll be changing not only countless lives around you, but also your very own from the inside out. Live selflessly and strive to help not only those who you want to help, but also those who you might not want to help. They both need you, and whether you realize it yet or not, you need both of them too.   

"If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." - Philippians 2:1-4

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