The other night as I was driving to Bible study, I realized that I was getting grumpy. I found myself wishing that I could stay home and watch TV. I asked myself, is this voice in my head accurate? Would I rather live vicariously through fake people living in made up / unrealistic social situations or study the word of God with people who have become my friends? I smiled at myself, rejected the voice telling me I should be home, and forgave myself for being selfish. Then the thought occurred to me that being of service is selfish when understood in the proper context.
In Galatians 2:20, Paul says, I live no longer I. Taking his train of thought, I ceased to exist at baptism. When I say this I mean that the unique person God created still exists, but like Paul, this person exists as a part of a larger whole. This has at least two major implications.
First, throughout my life, I have tagged certain beliefs about myself onto my God-given identity. I have created a perception of my identity, which is founded both on my God-given identity and other beliefs that I have come to associate with myself. Any aspect of my own personal belief about myself, which is not of God, needs to be removed, and this is predominately the work of the Holy Spirit with some cooperation from me.
Second, baptism united me to the body of Christ. Therefore, like Paul who talks about this new person as one living a life focused on the person, Jesus Christ, so too should my life focus on living with him, in him, and through him. This doesn’t mean a focus solely on Jesus, but all others who are likewise united to Him through baptism. It also means focusing on all of those called to be members of his body for we are incomplete without them.
As I pondered this truth, it occurred to me that service can be viewed as selfish. It is selfish to care for others because in caring for them, I care for myself. It is selfish to give to others because it is giving to myself for they are a part of me.
I know this sounds a bit ridiculous. However, the thought process helped me turn my self-pity into a joyful encounter with others. I was able to laugh at myself and to let go of the perceived burden of serving others, which was in fact no burden at all. I see where this view might help me to laugh at myself in the future when I feel burdened by doing for others, and to go joyfully towards serving the needs of others. In time, the Holy Spirit will remove the false aspects of Debra as a distinct person apart from Christ, and I will no longer need a crutch like this to help me go in the right direction. Until then, humor is my best weapon against pride and selfishness.
During this season of preparing for Christmas, many of us are likely to experience fatigue, feeling overwhelmed, and the like. Maybe this revised view of self and service can help you laugh and surrender your burdens to him, and to serve others with joy.
Spend some time with the Holy Spirit pondering your own life in Christ. How do you view service to others? Does the idea of self-care as acts done for the good of the body of Christ make you look at the world a little differently? Does it give you some ideas on how you can continue preparing for the coming of the one in whom you have your existence? Spend some time in prayer thanking God for the community of believers, and asking Him how you can help bring all others back to Him.