Overcoming spiritual selfishness and reflecting the face of Christ
Grace D Williamson
“What has God been teaching you?”
When I ask people this question, they often go on to describe a long, winding journey of self-discovery. They may say things along the lines of, “I’ve been learning that I need deeper relationships in my life.” “I’ve been learning that I care too much about what other people think of me.” “I’ve been learning that I need to stretch myself,” or, “I’ve been learning where my boundaries are.” These are all interesting and often helpful answers. But they are undeniably self-centered.
When someone asks me what God has been teaching me, my mind automatically drifts down paths of self-revelation. Sometimes God’s Name doesn’t even come up in my answer. The things I focus on learning all have to do with ME.
I’m more interested in learning about myself than in seeking God. Like all humans, I enjoy thinking about myself. I know exactly what my preferences are in everything from ice cream flavors to the sound system at church. I spend more time getting to know myself than I do the people around me. Worst of all, I spend more time getting to know myself than I do learning about God, about His character and His preferences.
When the Holy Spirit convicted me of this mental self-indulgence, I slapped a bright yellow sticky note on my mirror that reads: “It’s not about you. Galatians 2:20.”
In this verse, Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
When summing up the gospel message, people generally say something like, “Jesus loved me so much that He gave His life for me.”
This is true, but it’s not the whole truth. According to the verse in Galatians, Jesus loved me so much that He gave Himself for me, and because He was completely selfless toward me, I must now be selfless. I must crucify myself. I must die so that He may live in me and be glorified. That is the gospel.
Selflessness is a message that has been drilled into our heads since Sunday school. As children, our idea of being selfish was hoarding the crayons. Being selfless meant sharing the crayons so that the teacher would give you an extra pat on the back in front of the whole class. But selflessness is more than outward deeds. It’s a mentality that determines how we view God, other people, and life in general.
The Christian life is not a journey of self-discovery. It’s a journey of God-discovery. It’s not about us becoming better versions of ourselves. It’s about conforming to the likeness of Christ. It’s not about knowing what we want and where we want to go. It’s about living by faith in an all-powerful Lord. We weren’t put on this earth to discover ourselves. We weren’t put here to express ourselves. We’re here to discover God and to express His grace to others.
It’s not about us.
That statement is simple but not easy. I am naturally drawn to myself. Like Narcissus, I fall in love with my own reflection. I’m often trapped in a house of mirrors. Me, me, me – everywhere I turn.
There’s a funny thing about being in a house of mirrors. You never go anywhere. In looking at your reflection, you lose perception and perspective. Surrounded by images of yourself, you become truly lost.
When I look at my reflection, I find myself saying, “Mirror, mirror on the wall. Who’s the most righteous, most spiritual Christian of them all?” But there are no mirrors in the Christian walk. We are called to fix our eyes on Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). In our spiritual walk, we are to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33).
This is where I fall short. My prayer life is often self-centered. I spend a lot of time telling God what I want out of Him. How often do I spend time simply praising Him for Who He is?
Even when I study the Bible, my mind is focused on self. “What does this verse mean to me? How does it make me feel? How can I use it to better myself?” I twist the Word into another self-help tool on the journey of self-discovery. Instead, I should study Scripture in an effort to get to know God. His Word is not another key to discovering ourselves. It’s a tool with which we discover Him.
Our relationships should express His love. Our jobs should reflect His integrity. Every aspect of our lives should point to Him.
I don’t want to live in an aimless house of mirrors. Instead of looking at my reflection, I want to be a reflection of Christ. As John the Baptist said in John 3:30, “He must become greater; I must become less.”
It’s not about me.
(photo courtesy of Imago Photography)