Friday, January 31, 2014

It's partly about you


"Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it's important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God.  No, God brings it all to you.  The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.  In this way, we are like the various parts of a human body.  Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. (…) So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christs's body, let's just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren't." Romans 12: 3-6 The Message

I've been thinking lately about a little tug-of-war that seems to go on between the ends of the spectrum that I might characterize as a crisis of self.

I was right there back in the 80's when self-esteem became the latest greatest thing in education.  Apparently, I succeeded at incorporating in my classroom.  When I was preparing for parent-teacher conferences one year, I had my second graders write a letter to their parents telling them three things they thought they were doing well, and one thing they could improve.  One little girl had a hard time stopping with three strengths, so she wrote a list of several good things she was doing, the last of which was, "...and I have a good self of steam!"

It seems we are waking up to some unintended consequences of showing children how treasured they are.  We are finding that if we're not careful, this message comes across as "It's all about you." So now when we tell young adults raised with this message that actually it isn't all about them, sometimes it's a hard pill to swallow.

An interesting thing has happened in the aftermath of the self-esteem revolution.  When I notice an attitude of entitlement (from people of any generation, myself included), I sometimes have a knee jerk response that can result in this message:  "It's not about you at all."  And I think that sometimes I hear that same response from the church.  We want to teach truthfully, to say that the story of our lives is all about God--that all glory belongs to him, that we are created to be God-centered rather than self-centered, that being God-centered would naturally lead to being others-centered.  I believe those things thoroughly.

But that doesn't mean that it is not about you at all.  I think it's fair to say that it's partly about you, about us.  I mean, I have to deal with myself every. single. day.  I'm pretty sure it's the same for you.  For the Christian whose aim is to make Christ central, we have no choice but to seek him through the lenses of our own eyes.  When we do that, he can grow our field of vision, but it's our only starting point.  If we try as vigorously to deny ourselves as we have to build ourselves up, we have no place from which to approach the God who purposefully made us.

And so, child of God, it is ultimately all about God.  But as it pertains to you and God, of course, it is partly about you.  He really does treasure you.  He went to all of the effort of making you for himself.  And he made you to join him in his work of restoring a broken world, just as he has restored and continues to restore the broken you.  So just try to keep those things in perspective, and you'll be fine.

It's not all about you.
But it's partly about you.

Don't get your undies in a bundle over people who tell you it isn't about you at all, or people who live like it's all about them.  Just pray for them. We all have to find that balance.


StitchinByTheLake said...

Tracy I always find your musings so insightful. I'm one of those who says It's all about God over and over - sometimes to myself and sometimes to others. I know without a shred of doubt that God loves me and that someday I'm going home but it was brought home to me this week that my willingness to make that journey to Heaven might make others uncomfortable - because it's also partly about them. People who love me don't always think I'm taking good care of myself. I don't stop, I take on too much for my age, they worry - and while I tried to laugh that off and say but it's my life I had to come to the conclusion that first it's about God, that's true, but it's also about me, and it's about you, and it's about others. I may not be making much sense here but if I take what you said and make it personal then it boils down to that old advice, God first, others second, me third. However, being third means it IS partly about me. :) blessings, marlene

HJ said...

Yeah. I'm with ya! Up, up with finding this balance. Acknowledging that it's okay that it is a bit about me is what allowed me to find some help, when I was really going downhill fast. Before that, I felt so guilty (on top of panic attacks and heartbreak) thinking nothing should be about me - but that really backfired and accidentally made things more and more about me. Funny thing is, I'd have encouraged otherwise to someone else in my flip flops, but it's hard to internalize it and release the false guilt of feeling like it should never be about me at all - and if it is, that's a big problem.

Wise words!! :-)