Last Wednesday, in the youth group where I volunteer, we were talking about being servants. In the midst of our discussion, one of my girls blurted out, “Can we talk about something else? This makes me really uncomfortable.”
My first instinct was to blame her response on her upbringing in our wealthy, superficial Orange County, but then I realized something.
I feel the same way.
I know we are called to be servants. “Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave–just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to give His life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26-28). We’re supposed to selflessly give our lives for others, just as Jesus did. This is repeated again in Philippians 2:3-8:
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. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross!
This is the truth of the Word of God–but the thought of putting others’ needs before my own, that thought makes me very, very uncomfortable.
You see, on one level I accept these passages and others like them. Yes, as Jesus served, so I should serve.
But the truth is, my life is incredibly selfish. I spend all my time thinking about myself and how to make my life more comfortable for me. What job can I get after college that will be the most pleasant and comfortable for me? How can I make the professor think well of me? Would I be happier if I hung out with friends or stayed in my room? How would my hair look best today? How dare that person cut me off on the freeway–I’m such a good citizen, I always follow the laws, does he think he’s more important than me? These and a thousand other such thoughts run through my mind in an endless me-centric chorus.
I guess I’m being confronted by how deep my sin nature goes. I guess this is a wake-up call for me.
I wonder what my life would look like if I asked different questions–like, how can I help the people around me? In what job could I serve my coworkers, employers, customers? Does one of my friends need someone to lean on? How can I speak kind words to the people around me?
As I face this next gigantic change in my life (I’m graduating from college in fourteen days, after eighteen straight years in school), I’ve been going through a bit of a quarter-life crisis, wondering if my life is actually changing the world around me at all, or if I’m choosing the path of least resistance that will leave the people around me untouched, as if I’ve never been there. I think perhaps the only way to make sure my life matters is to turn my focus from myself and to the people around me. Maybe the only life that really counts is a life entirely devoted to the good of other people.
This calls to mind Jesus’ command that we die to ourselves, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will find it” (Matthew 16:25). This is maybe one of the hardest things I’ve ever heard.
I don’t have a good conclusion for this post. I still wrestle with the idea of losing myself. To entreat you to do what I probably fail at 99% of the time might be hypocritical.
But maybe, if you’re reading this, it will get you thinking, as it has for me. And maybe that’s enough for now.