It’s Not About Me

The other day, I read a particularly poignant article that explained that the Gospel is worth the difficulties of missions, especially overseas missions, in which extended families are often separated. It was exactly what I needed at that point. It reminded me that no matter what God has me doing today, tomorrow, next year, or next decade, it is worth it. Following Him is worth it. And then God hit me in the face with a two-by-four of a different kind.

its-not-about-me

I realized that this is not about me. My job is not about me. My living situation is not about me. My financial situation is not about me. My friendships are not about me. My family is not about me. My future is not about me! My goals and dreams and passions are not about me. And know what?

My relationship is not about me.

I’m dating an amazing guy. He surprises me, takes me on sweet dates, spends time talking with me and listening to me, gives me super thoughtful gifts, and demonstrates strength and grace and forgiveness and gentleness and bravery in our relationship. He is funny, loves kids, has never met a stranger, and cares deeply for orphans and widows.

But it is easy for me to see my relationship with him in terms of “me.” It’s easy for me to incessantly worry about being a good girlfriend. It’s easy for me to unnecessarily doubt God’s (proven) direction in bringing us together. It’s easy for me to be afraid of being too much or not enough. It’s easy for me to constantly think about how he affects me or why he isn’t listening to me or why he doesn’t meet all 47,589.5 expectations I have for every moment. But it’s not about me. I’m thinking of myself too much.

True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.

– C.S. Lewis

The opposite of C.S. Lewis’s statement is likewise true. It is not humble to constantly think negative of yourself. That is selfishness in another form. And if negative self-talk, unrealistic self-expectations, and the like are a part of your daily life, ditch those patterns and begin to form new ones. A Christian counselor can help tremendously with that.

Anyway, my relationship is not about me. Here’s the shocker: It’s not about him, either. And it’s not even about “us.”

Lecrae sings (raps?) two lines that resonate deeply with me:

Your money, your singleness, marriage, talent, your time
They were loaned to you to show the world that Christ is Divine

When I was not dating, I found those lines to be a call to embrace and appreciate my singleness and to use it for good. I traveled freely in ways I would not have done if I was otherwise attached, including spending three months in Chiang Mai, Thailand for my student teaching. I also spent my time in a much more free way (which allowed me to do more things or have a more flexible schedule) than if I had been attached and would have needed to spend time on my relationship. I did things for the Kingdom of God that I could best accomplish as a single person.

Now that I’m dating (and in the future, when I hope to be married), I have a call to embrace and appreciate my relationship and use it for good. I am called to glorify God and build up his Kingdom in ways that I could not do as (or ways I could do differently than) an unattached person. A simple example: I prefer to have someone with me when I’m helping a man, particularly a homeless man, because I am a young woman and I need to be careful. When I was single, a group of friends and I offered to go in together to buy a meal for a homeless man outside a Panera Bread (he didn’t take us up on the offer), but it wasn’t something I would have done alone. My boyfriend and I came across a homeless man downtown and we offered to buy him a drink, also something I would not have felt comfortable doing if I were alone. He did take us up the offer and we were able to give him a little hope that day.

I know that’s a simple example, and many women have no qualms about helping homeless men… But the point still stands: There are some things God can use us to accomplish that are best accomplished in certain stages of life. We are challenged, by those lines from Lecrae, to use our current stages of life, whatever they are, as a means to serve others and thereby serve God.

See, when I read the article from the first paragraph that explained that a family deciding to move overseas was not about the family or the extended family, but solely about God and His directives to “go therefore into all the nations,” I couldn’t argue. I knew that when a family makes that decision, it is not about them. The same is true for me when my boyfriend and I began our relationship: it wasn’t and isn’t about us. It’s about building a relationship together so we can in turn bless those around us as representatives of God.

What makes marriage worth having is that you, your spouse, and those around you see more of God and his love for us in Jesus. If you’re not experiencing that with your boyfriend, break up with him.

– Marshall Segal

Those two sentences hit me in the face every time I read them, because ultimately, all of this boils down to love (which “just happens” to be my OneWord for 2015).

Last night, I spent time wrestling with a disagreement I faced yesterday. Just like how my relationship is not about me, the disagreement wasn’t about me either, and I knew it. I struggled with it and ended up spending some time in prayer for this person instead of getting defensive or feeling rejected over the disagreement. I was able to experience love for this person by considering their needs and circumstances instead of solely focusing on me and my concerns.

This is not about me, because while God is using me in a crazy way in his grand narrative of a plan, I am only a tinier than miniscule part of what he’s doing. I am called to take a step outside my frame of reference and see my circumstances from another perspective.

What in your life is not actually about you? How can you demonstrate love in those circumstances?

Welcome to 2015

Just before 2013 dawned, I heard about a program called OneWord365. Instead of creating a list of New Year’s Resolutions, program participants are encouraged to spend time reflecting on one word over the course of a year. I selected the word grace as my 2013 OneWord. It was bumpy, it was tough, it was crazy… But I learned a lot and had an awesome experience.

For 2014, God hit me in the face with the word discoveryI knew I would be undergoing many changes, such as spending three months in Chiang Mai, Thailand; graduating from college; moving, looking for jobs, and looking for a church/community. There were also many new changes I was not expecting: a new, wonderful, amazing boyfriend (my first); working out my relationships with close friends (including a decision to not move in with them); feeling my heart torn between three cities and three families; finding a friend/mentor in the sweet girl who had my job before I did; starting a new ministry opportunity through her and her husband; and having a new “re-calling” to overseas missions. Much of 2014 is not what I expected. I often feel tossed by the wind, unable to grab hold of anything firm and stable.

But I forget that God is my solid rock. Oh, how I forget that so easily! Maybe 2014 is a transitional year. Maybe it’s supposed to feel out of control… And not a good out-of-control, either, but often a frustrating, disappointing out-of-control. Often, I feel alone. I feel that I have more on my to-do list than hours in a day. Yet, I also occasionally feel bored. I feel dissatisfied. Maybe that’s okay. Maybe God is reminding me that this is not my home. My home is an eternity with Him.

The word I’ve chosen to focus on throughout all the days of 2015 is LOVE.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

I know, I know… It’s cliche. Everyone else has picked “love,” too. A couple nights before New Year’s Eve, I literally could not stop thinking about it. It was all I could to go to bed with “love” on the brain. It wasn’t emotional or sexual love, either. It was selfless love… Agape love…

1 Corinthians 13:13 says that faith, hope, and love are the three things that remain when all is said and done, but that love is the greatest of the three. John 3:16 states that the reason we have the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ reconciling us to God is because “God so loved the world…” He LOVED us. That’s why we’re here. We are called to LOVE others, because “by this everyone will know that [we] are [His] disciples” (John 13:35). The word “love” shows up in the NLT Bible 759 times, more times than faith (507) and hope (190) combined.

One reason I’ve chosen love is because it is difficult. People are sinful and selfish and annoying and rude and close-minded. It is difficult to love anyone! In addition, love is not a feeling, but a choice. I have been dating an amazing guy for six months. It has been awesome, difficult, and wonderful. But if I relied solely on my feelings for him, there would be times I would want to give up on this relationship. Feelings change. However, I am learning to rely on what I know to be true instead of what I feel. I know that this guy is after God’s heart. I know that he wants what is best. I know that he has a servant’s heart. I know that consistency is practically his middle name (it’s actually Stephen, but you get my point). I care deeply about him even when he forgets important things or even when we struggle with boundaries because I have chosen to care about him. Love is not a feeling, but a choice. It hopes and perseveres and sees potential. And the cool thing is that he does the same for me.

So, welcome to 2015. I know it will be another year of transitions and changes and moves. I know it will be another crazy year. Too crazy for words. But I know that God is my solid rock on which I find my footing, and I know that I will be intentional about choosing love this year and learning how to love well, as Christ loves the church.