Recently, I double parked my car (intentionally) to take advantage of a shaded area. I was in such a terrible hurry, it was late in the day with the temperature holding in the 90s, and the parking lot was basically empty. I had ice cream in my car, and I was on the east side of Frankfort (about 22 mins. from my house). Truly, I didn't think anyone would care. I just needed to run in for one second, I reasoned.
Suffice it to say, someone did care and they let me know it with a nasty note written with two different ink colors on a brown paper napkin of all things! I think they were determined to make sure I knew they meant what they said, by golly! Among other niceties, they called me "selfish."
It actually took me aback, and I felt the sting of those words. As I put Hank (my feisty Honda who replaced the Silver Bullet who replaced my beloved Bessie) in gear, I found myself ruminating on the sharp words my disgruntled neighbor left for me. I felt offended and verbally defended myself to God justifying my behavior to a degree.
The next day, I found myself still processing this incident, and I recognized I needed to give it deeper thought. I didn't want to miss any lesson especially if God was teaching me about the toxic mindset and attitude of selfishness--one I tended to dismiss.
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit,
In the New Testament, the word "selfish" carries with it this meaning: a desire to put one's self forward.
Well, I do desire to put myself forward from time to time.
Maybe I want the last word in a discussion. Perhaps I want you to see my view so badly that I keep interrupting you while you speak.
Or I take that last piece of the scrumptious homemade apple pie or the very best and sweetest of the strawberries.
I might even so desire your time and presence that I guilt you when you cannot join the party. I'm jealous for you to such a degree that I care more about my own dashed expectations, hopes, and a boatload of "picture perfects" than I care about giving you the benefit of the doubt or the respect you deserve.
Am I selfish with my resources? Do I share my possessions with a neighbor in need when they come calling? Am I willing to let go of "stuff"? Do I donate my time even when it doesn't benefit me? Do I spend my energy simply for the sake of someone else?
Do I push pause on my busy life to assist someone in need or do I justify with, "I really would help if only I had more time"?
Are my love relationships based on co-dependent tendencies? Do I prove my love for you in order to get you to love me back? Am I controlling and manipulative with self-serving hopes that you will meet my emotional needs?
Selfishness at root may involve contention, strife, and wrangling.
This makes me wonder, am I ever selfish toward God? Do I come to God mainly when I have hardship and in order to avoid pain myself or do I draw near to Him to give honor and praise? When affliction or trial erupts in my life, am I the first to abandon my joy in Christ and run complaining to God, pointing a finger at Him? Do I flatter God when things are going well or unwittingly lie to Him but have no true love for Him?
Why, after all, am I living a decent, moral life? *
So what's a gal (who says "yes" to a few of the questions above) to do?
Recognizing is the first step, and repentance is next in line--these actions are a part of the transformative process that happens when my mind is renewed (Rom. 12:2). Then, of course, I pray that any roots of selfishness be fully yanked out of my heart by the power of the Spirit.
It's not a bad idea to simply ask God daily to continue to reveal to me any offensive thoughts in my heart (Psalm 139:23-24). Further, I need replacement thoughts to better guide me. I might pray:
Am I suggesting that God sent me that note? Of course not. He would never speak to me, His darling and precious daughter quite like this. However, I certainly am suggesting that God can use a gazillion object lessons and occurrences to teach me something. And I want to pay attention.
Is there a tie in between selfishness and racism? Probably so.
I sure hope you will join me for Part 2 of the Choose 2 Think podcast series Our Souls Have No Color: Educate. We'll take a look at our quest to learn more about this cancer that plagues our nation.
And until then, let's Choose 2 Think (together). :)
*This blog post, in part, inspired by Tim Keller's devotional: The Songs of Jesus for July 6.
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