It’s been a while since I’ve been to my little corner of the blogosphere. Some seasons are more challenging than others, as you know, and the last few months have been just that. Like a lot of bloggers, I’ve done some introspective searching recently. If I were to take a look back at the last twelve months, I’d have to say there’s no love lost for 2013. Sure, there were precious events tucked into the folds of the fabric, but there also seemed to be endless, surprising bumps, dips, cliff-like drop offs knocking me off kilter. Life is like that, isn’t it? My set of circumstances aren’t unique. My struggles are common and perhaps lightweight in comparison to some. In retrospect, I’ll cherish the sweetness in the year and learn from the bitter realities that built character in me.
Isn’t that what most parents say? It all “builds character,” doesn’t it?
So, what lesson built the most character in me? Not that this is a “done deal” or a “finished work,” but I might say the hardest reality I’ve faced has been: it’s not about me. Is anyone else learning this hard-knock life lesson, too?
The sneaky little beast! I didn’t see it immediately. It came in the prettiest package. First, it was the message from the culture whispering attractive words:
What did it look like? Simple. It was as obvious as communicating, “Me! Me! Me!” in socially acceptable terms:
“You offended me. You should know that would set me off!”
“I don’t have to accept that kind of talk from you.”
“No one listens to me! Hear me, and I’ll act differently!”
I’m not proud of those statements. I said them, truthfully; and they sounded flat-out ugly (after I said them, unfortunately). Someone brought it to my attention. I was beyond communicating needs appropriately and leaning into demanding my needs be met inappropriately.
The little “beastie” could also be as stealthy as showing interest in others, crafting the whole conversation around my experiences, interests, and eventually circling back to me, me, me. Sure, it looked like taking interest in others at first, but nothing strangled the life out of relationships more than hogtying the conversation with my established parameters.
I know there’s a fine line near legalism here, but there were moments I could see glimpses of reality. It was all about me.
It didn’t occur to me. I’d become rather comfortable steeping in the culture around me. Doesn’t any tea variety permeate the whole mug’s water quite nicely with a little time and warmth? Exactly. However, we are called to be “blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world” (Philippians 2:15 CSB). That’s a stark contrast. Yet, I found myself looking more like everyone else around me (not a bad idea, depending on who is nearest).
The standard set for me is not the average Joe in closest proximity. It’s far, far more than what I’ll see on a normal day in my little world. It’s not about me at all. It’s much more selfless than that!
God, my Abba, loved me so much, he sacrificed everything for me (John 3:16). Jesus, of infinite worth and and deeply loved by the Father, imparted that worth to me when he sacrificed his life on the cross. Me, ugly and self-centered as I can be, was given the kind of gift that can never be accurately appraised. Love and life. Forever.
When I try to work that one out, I have trouble. I didn’t get what I deserved, and I didn’t deserve what I got. That’s mercy—and grace. Sweet, fragrant grace! Because of the precious worth that has been imparted to me through Christ, it’s not about me anymore.
It’s comes back to the central theme embedded in the Christian faith, my faith. He has sacrificed for me. Because it isn’t all about me, I live my life in a way that is a “living sacrifice,” a day-to-day, moment-by-moment response to the love and life gift I’ve received.
Life will be difficult. People will treat me in ways that are painful, even excruciatingly so. The culture will continue to offer my ego sumptuous morsels I’ll be tempted to nibble. In all of that, I am responsible to know what is “good, pleasing, and perfect” in the eyes of God. Thankfully, the love and life gift I’ve been given is not without power.
Do you have interesting life lessons you’re thinking about right now? What was the “character-builder” in your life from 2013, if you don’t mind sharing?
Thanks for reading along!