While it may be true that the Lord works in mysterious ways, my experience has been that it is also true there are times God speaks directly to us with a clear and obvious message. Lately it’s become apparent the Lord wants me to address a negative pattern in my life, turn from it and stop repeating it. My morning devotional talked about being a drain on others vs. being a wellspring, I watched a Joel Osteen message about honoring others, and all the while the Holy Spirit has been convicting me about my search for attention from others, their approval and the need to feed my own ego with accolades and conversations that focus on me.
I know I’m not in spiritually fit condition when all I start to think about all day long is me. Gone are the thoughts of praying for others and about what I can do for those in need, and resentment about my service commitments and responsibilities takes over. I am impatient – wherever I go I seem to be in the slowest line or behind the slowest driver, and don’t these people know how important I am and that I need to get somewhere?! It has taken some time for me to come to the realization, but when I finally stopped to ask why I’m so grumpy and irritable, I recognized that I am disconnected from the Father. And I’ve also discovered that, interestingly enough (no coincidences here!), it’s during these times that I’m too “busy” to get to Bible study, I don’t have time to spend with other Christian women, and I cut short my quiet time with God so that I can get started checking off my all-important to-do list.
I can so easily become the center of my own little universe. I cringe at the ugliness within myself when all I think about is me! I see it happening, yet I feel powerless to do anything about it. My sinful nature takes over, and the enemy just loves it! How can I get out of this mindset and stop being so self-centered? After all, God is the only one whose approval I really need and only He can give me the inner peace and truly unconditional love that I so desperately seek out and crave. So what can I do on those days I’m completely self-absorbed and self-consumed? I don’t have the power to remove my own selfishness, but the Holy Spirit does. The first step to adjusting my attitude is confessing my self-centeredness to God and sincerely repenting. Then I present myself to the Father with no holds barred. As the Apostle Paul instructed:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. (New International Version, Romans 12:1; emphasis mine)
When I humbly submit myself to the Potter, He can mold me back into proper shape. Then I will no longer “conform to the pattern of this world” but rather, I will be “transformed by the renewing of [my] mind” (Romans 12:2a). The next step is to fill myself up with spiritual food and water by spending time with God in prayer, in His Word and with other Christians. When I am spiritually nourished, the desire for worldly recognition and acceptance fades away. The Samaritan woman Jesus met at the well sought fulfillment in her relationships with men (she had previously had five husbands and was living with a sixth man when she encountered Jesus), but Jesus explained to her that the spiritual “well” she continually visited would only leave her thirsty again. Only He can offer us the living water that quenches our spiritual thirst:
“…but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)
When I feel myself being drawn back into seeking validation from the world, I can run my thoughts and actions by the checklist provided in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. The checklist determines whether what I do and think spring from love: Are my thoughts and actions patient and kind, and not envious, boastful or proud? Do they demonstrate honor to others? Are my thoughts and actions other-centered rather than self-seeking? Am I not easily angered? Am I not keeping a record of wrongs nor delighting in evil but instead rejoicing with the truth? Are my thoughts and behaviors displaying love that always protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres? Scripture tells me that I can be the most successful person in the eyes of the world and be fully equipped with tremendous spiritual gifts, yet without love I am nothing: If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)
Fellow warriors, I don’t know about you, but I definitely do not want to be a clanging cymbal. That is one loud and annoying sound! Instead, I want to gently and humbly shine the light of Jesus and reflect His love onto those I come into contact with. For no matter what I accomplish in this life, the greatest legacy I will leave behind is love. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13).