Sunday, May 18, 2014

It's Not About You

I remember when I was in college I was taking a course on worship. We visited many different denominations to compare and contrast how worship was similar and how it was different. Of course, we read much about each place beforehand, but one of the most significant things I remember from this course was a story I read.

A Protestant theological student was invited by a friend of his who was going to be ordained as a Greek Orthodox priest. When he arrived, he realized that the service had been going on for some time. There was a lot of things he was unfamiliar with (different language, different ceremonies, a lot of incense), but one thing that disturbed him was the children. They were being loud. They were walking back and forth and shouting with everyone. People crying, "Axios!" "[He is] Worthy!" The children were having fun and no one seemed to be too concerned. At one point, the young Protestant remarked to the lady sitting next to him that he wished the children would be quiet for a minute.

The woman replied, "This is not about you! It's about God!"

Worship is not about us. It's about God. Way too often we try to find worship types that appeal to our nature. When we have a problem with one church, we jump to another. This one uses too much liturgy. This one uses none. This church has too many old people. This church has too many children. When we focus on all the negative aspects of a church, we will miss the positive.

My corps has the worst building of all Salvation Army buildings in the USA Central Territory. We have a tree growing out of the masonry, right above the entrance. Our restrooms are not handicapped accessible, nor is our entrance. In order to make the building safe and secure, we would have to demolish the building and rebuild or purchase a new building. Currently, neither is within our budget.

However, if I focus just on that aspect, I will get demoralized. In fact, I often have sunk into a bit of despair when I think about all of this. Then I remember, my corps is not only my building, but the people in it, too, and I have some of the best soldiers around!

This idea goes beyond worship, too.

I am a selfish creature. I realize that more and more every day. There have been times in my life when I have asked, "What do I get out of this? What does it benefit me? How will I profit from this situation?" The areas of my life that have been affected by this include not only in my professional life, but my life with my friends and family, too.

I was thinking about myself and not about others. I was thinking about myself and not about God.

I noticed something else about being selfish:  It made me worry a lot. I do not have very many close friendships. (See my blog on being Vulnerable.) So when I do risk opening myself up to my close friends, I worry:  Will they reciprocate? Does my friendship with them mean as much to them as it does to me?

It's not about you, Timothy. It's about them.

I sometimes notice my children being more affectionate with my wife than with myself. They have a special bond with their mother that I do not have and it makes me sometimes very jealous.

It's not about you, Timothy. It's about your children.

I sometimes go through life, working hard every day, hoping some day to have an Eternal Reward.

It's not about you, Timothy. It's about God.

I cannot do this anymore. My life is meaningless without God in my life. My service is meaningless unless I place others above my own priorities. My lofty goals are nothing unless they are grounded in the will of God.

I am nothing. God is everything.

Mark 10:44 (NASB):  "Whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all."

This imagery is jarring to me. I have to deny my freedom and become a slave. However, being a slave to God has much more freedom than being a slave to my own selfish desires.


  1. Thanks Timothy! I feel our innate human predisposition to survive is implanted in our DNA and that 'Natural Man' thinks first about self/survival. I naturally evaluate most circumstances based on what's in it for me? In my morning and evening prayers I am directly confronted by the Holy Spirit to include others' well-being in my thoughts and actions. Lord, help me to do better. Amen!

    1. I agree! When we're born as infants, our survival instinct is to think about ourselves first. If we ignore hunger pains or other life threatening issues, we die. So there is the innate part of ourselves that seeks to protect. This is a good thing. However, when it goes beyond protecting for survival and moves to protecting for self-interest, this is when we have problems.

      Great insights!