Saturday, May 8, 2010

But That's So Selfish (Plus a Leg Update)

Forgive me if I include a very brief leg update for the curious: Still scheduled to be admitted the morning of May 11th, will go home 5-7 days later. The psuedomonas turned out to be susceptible to Cipro, so I'm taking very high doses of that and Augmentin up until that morning. A "colony" of bacteria was removed by the nurse today, which will be cultured and verified as something that either Cipro or Augmentin will kill. Slurpy's working well. Pain is decreasing. There are several small eschars (areas of hard, dead tissue) and several obvious colonies of bacteria, but over all, the wound is looking better than it has since the original surgery. Talked to the doctor about some concerns I have related to the PTSD. The result? He understood. I will have a private room. I will not be catheterized and I will not be required to use a bedpan. Over all, a very productive day.

Okay. Now that that's over with, the meat of this post.

Selfishness. Defined by Webster's as either "concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself: seeking or concentrating on one's own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others" or "arising from concern with one's own welfare or advantage in disregard of others." Certainly not a trait most of us want attributed to ourselves. In fact, I don't know that I've ever met someone who said to me, "I wish I could be just a little more selfish."

I have noticed that many people, myself included, seem to say "yes" to almost any request made of them. I want to give. I want to help. I want to be selfless. If it benefits someone else, I am all for it. Even if it hurts me. I have always used Galatians 5:13 & 14 to justify myself in this attitude. I've convinced myself that i have to "do it all" because... well, because that's the unselfish thing to do. Look at those verses with me for just a moment, will you?

It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don't use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that's how freedom grows. For everything we know about God's Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That's an act of true freedom. (taken from the Message Bible)

I could use this passage to try to convince you that we should do everything others ask. After all it says "serve one another in love." Right? We should serve others. In love. Because that's what we're told to do.

Let me ask you something though. Have you ever been SO busy that you cannot remember what it is you are supposed to do next? Maybe not. Have you promised someone that you'd be there for them, only to walk away with the sinking realization that you have another equally important commitment? I think that sometimes in our efforts to serve God, to love our neighbors, we fall terribly short. Not for lack of willingness. Not for lack of "yes" answers. But because we don't say no. We get so wrapped up in doing, going, and helping, that our own lives start to fall apart.

Look at Luke 6:41 & 42

"Why do you notice the little piece of dust in your friend's eye, but you don't notice the big piece of wood in your own eye? How can you say to your friend, 'Friend, let me take that little piece of dust out of your eye' when you cannot see that big piece of wood in your own eye?! You hypocrite! First, take the wood out of your own eye. Then you will see clearly to take the dust out of your friend's eye.

I always looked at that passage as sort of applying to them. You know, those other people who sit in church with you. But you know what? It's talking to me. The reason I didn't think it was? Well... I am pretty sure I would notice if I got a big piece of wood in my eye. Even if it was metaphorical, like getting entrenched in sin. Or failing to meet my commitments. Or failing to manage my finances. Becoming unsubmissive to my husband. Wouldn't I?

Maybe. If I had time to pay attention to that sort of thing. You know, in between all of the loving my neighbor that I have to do.

Face it. We cannot obey the commandment set forth in Galatians if we don't take heed to what's written here in Luke. Maybe that's why Luke comes first in the Bible? We absolutely, positively must take heed to ourselves. We have to take care of ourselves before we can take care of anything or anyone else. There is no way we can be of any earthly use if we are falling apart.

I am a very good example of this one. I got so caught up in wanting to "be better" and help people that I didn't even notice myself slipping back into the very dangerous, very scary habit of self mutilation. The mess I made is still being cleaned up (see the note at the top of this entry). And right now? I just need to let myself take care of me. I can't take care of others, can't see past my own mountain to help them. And that hurts. But truth doesn't always feel good going down - sometimes, it's bitter, like medicine. Right now, my truth is that I can't really do much for anybody else. I hate it. Loathe it. Want to deny or ignore it. Or both. But I can't. I have to heed it, or I'll wind up with not just a big stick in my eye, but an entire log jamb. And that would certainly help my neighbor, right? Well... maybe not so much.

A little bit further in Luke, it we see what exactly it was that Christ came to do. We are called to be Christians, or Christ-Like. So maybe we ought to read what He did, so we know what we ought to be doing. Read Luke 19:10 with me:

The Son of Man (Christ Jesus) came to find lost people and save them.

Well, that's simple. If we're to love people, and be like Christ, we should be out finding lost people and saving them.

I will be honest. Right now, I feel selfish. I am not out finding lost people and saving them. I am barely getting through my days, battling a systemic infection, fighting to keep my leg, looking at my 3rd urgent surgery in so many weeks. Praying that this one the last - the surgeon isn't sure it will be.

Am I a bad Christian for this? Am I failing? I've stepped back from some of the "helps" things that I usually do. I spend less time now "reaching out." I am asking others to help me. I am trying to force myself to let them. Everything in me is screaming out "THIS IS SO SELFISH."

But then I read this in Matthew. Matthew comes before Luke the way we arrange our Bibles, but this account is after the commandment to love, and after we see what Jesus came to do.

Read Matthew 14, verses 22 and 23:

As soon as the meal was finished, He (Jesus) insisted that the disciples get in the boat and go on ahead to the other side while He dismissed the people. When the crowd dispersed, He climbed the mountainside so He could be by Himself and pray. He stayed there alone, late into the night.

So. There you have it. Jesus, who was perfect, drew away for a time. He spent time alone. He prayed, and He didn't do it for just a little while. He did it late into the night. He didn't just happen to find Himself alone, either. He sent everyone away. He took care of Himself. I don't believe that He would have been able to do what He did if He didn't take this time, alone. This time to be restored and refreshed and rebuilt.

And so, while my flesh screams "SELFISH SELFISH WOMAN" my Spirit whispers, "Wisdom. This is wisdom."

Think about it... can you find a way to apply any of this to your own life? If so, please leave me a comment. I'd love to hear from you.

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