Posted by: 15shekels | July 10, 2010

It’s (Not) About You.

“I think of life itself now as a wonderful play that I’ve written for myself, and so my purpose is to have the utmost fun playing my part.”  ~Shirley MacLaine

“You are the center of your universe, and you can make anything happen.” -Ashley Smith

It is common for science teachers to laugh affectionately at their ancestors when they inform their classes that for centuries, mankind believed that the sun and stars revolved around the earth. How silly—they imply—that they could have thought we were the center of the universe.

They usually miss the irony that each one of them, and each one of us, still lives as if we are the center of the universe. Of course, we know now that the earth is one tiny planet in one of many solar systems, in one of many galaxies, and that we are one tiny ant crawling on that one tiny planet. And yet each one of us lives as if not only our planet, but our individual life, is at the center of it all.

It’s one of the most absurd symptoms of our sinfulness. We know how tiny and insignificant we are in the scheme of everything, and yet we believe with our whole hearts that it’s all about us.

In his book, Crazy Love, Francis Chan describes the phenomenon of our silly self-centeredness:

“Suppose you are an extra in an upcoming movie. You will probably scrutinize that one scene where hundreds of people are milling around, just waiting for that two-fifths of a second when you can see the back of your head…What if you rent out the theater on opening night and invite all your friends and family to come see the new movie about you? People will say, ‘You’re an idiot! How could you think this movie is about you?‘” (Chan, Crazy Love, page 42)

From the moment we come out of the womb crying, we are little bundles of selfishness. Feed me, give me toys, stay up all night taking care of me. It could be argued that a baby doesn’t know any better, but it continues into adulthood, doesn’t it? Our parents might tell us along the way that “it’s not about you” or to “serve others” but they also tell us to “chase your dreams”, “follow your heart” and “do what makes you happy.” Our individualistic American dream has fed the fire in each of us, and we honestly believe that life is about achieving, climbing and winning—by our own power, and for our own glory.

Self-help aisles in bookstores testify to our belief that the ultimate goals in life are to be happy and successful. Self-help authors gamble on the probability that their customers will never finish their 20-step programs to happiness. Because if they do, the profitable illusion will be shattered, and they will learn that striving for one’s own happiness and fulfillment is a Catch-22. As I learned on my honeymoon, the problem with getting everything you want is the realization that none of the things that promise personal happiness are sufficient to fulfill us.

The good news, counterintuitively, is that it’s not about us at all. Chan’s movie analogy, quoted above, continues:

“Now consider the movie of life…God created the world. (Were you alive then? Was God talking to you when He proclaimed ‘It is good’ about all He had just made?) Then people rebel against God (who, if you haven’t realized it yet, is the main character in this movie)…[Chan goes on to describe God’s interactions with Abraham, Joseph and the patriarchs]…And then, the climax: The Son of God is born among the people whom God still somehow loves. While in this world, the Son teaches His followers what true love looks like. Then the Son of God dies and is resurrected and goes back up to be with God. And even though the movie isn’t quite finished yet, we know what the last scene holds…the throne room of God. Here every being worships God who sits on the throne, for He alone is worthy to be praised…From start to finish, this movie is obviously about God. He is the main character…We have only our two-fifths-of-a-second-long scene to live. I don’t know about you, but I want my two-fifths of a second to be about my making much of God.” (pages 43-44)

Accepting that it’s not about us may seem disappointing and joy-killing. But in truth, don’t we all want to live for something bigger than ourselves? We’ve all tasted the joy of getting swept up in collective worship—whether it’s at a great concert, or a rally for a cause, or a memorial for a beloved friend. Self-consciousness slips away in the delight of something bigger and more beautiful. It’s because our hearts weren’t designed to seek self-fulfillment. They were designed to worship and serve the biggest and most beautiful thing of all—God. And I can say with complete certainty that my life has been more fulfilling, joyful and exciting since I realized it’s not about me at all.

Christianity presents a radically different message from that of our culture. The call is to set aside my needs and my desires to serve the King of Glory:

“Then [Jesus] called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.'” -Mark 8:34-35

Jesus calls us to serve Him, instead of ourselves. For serving Him is the only path to life. The astonishing side-note is that the main character of this movie not only knows each of the extras, but loves them individually and intimately, like a son or daughter. The God whom all of life is actually about knows how many hairs are on your head (Matthew 10:30). The main character sent his beloved Son to die so that you could be with Him in paradise forever. He loves us so much that even when we continue to live as if it’s all about us—and we do, even as Christians, every day—He takes us back. Dare to consider that the perfect, beautiful, everlasting main character of this story loves you more than you can fathom. It’s truly absurd. Consider that, and it will change your life. But hopefully, that will no longer be the point.

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Responses

  1. Wonderful!

    I’ve read a few chapters of Chan’s book and you’ve inspired me to finish it.

    The amazing thing to me is that while God is God and we are not, the entire earthly ministry of His Son says that we are valued and precious, worth dying for (even in our sinful state). He is to be the main point, the main character – but He gently takes us and transforms us, conforms us, as if He wants the “extras” to be on the very stage with HIM! Not because they deserve it, but because HE just loves them!

    Thanks for the great post,
    Karen


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