I am a selfish person. I know this. And I pray regularly for God to forgive me of that particular day’s version of selfishness – being irritable because someone interrupted my listening to a good book, my frustration at my less-than-perfect children, my wish to be left alone or to be with people (but by my choice – not anyone else’s).
One of the signs of spiritual growth is becoming other-focused. I know people like this. One of my dearest friends made time to come see me at home on Thursday despite my headache since we had missed our last couple of get-togethers. My husband took care of me on Tuesday when I had a splitting migraine and was throwing up. (That’s how you know someone loves you – they stay with you even when it involves bodily fluids!)
One of my frustrations is that I feel like my migraines make me very inward-focused when I should be focusing on God and other people. I feel like I’m always self-monitoring to see how bad the headache is, whether I need to take meds, whether I should put an ice pack on, whether I’ll be able to go to the shop. It’s a little difficult to focus on other people’s needs when I’m constantly checking on my own.
The Great Commandment says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. . . . and . . . love your neighbor as yourself.” I don’t have any trouble with the loving myself part. I don’t do so well with loving God and loving others.
It’s hard to find the line, though, between being selfish and legitimately meeting my own needs. When I have a migraine, I know that I need to treat it and not try to pretend it isn’t there or it gets worse and I end up in the ER. When I’m not in the throes of a migraine, I need God’s grace to help me look beyond myself and do what I can for others. Right now, that appears to involve working (or knitting) at our yarn shop. Not only do I get to be around yarn, but I get to help people with their knitting, and build relationships that benefit us both. But I know that I can’t do this myself.
How am I supposed to solve this problem without doing something active, setting up a “program” (of Bible reading, prayer, etc.)? It seems to me that it’s not the activities of spiritual formation that are helpful here, but the walking day by day with Jesus. He tells us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30). Jesus tells us to take His yoke upon ourselves. A yoke is meant for two animals, so Jesus is saying to walk with Him. While prayer and Bible study are important for this walk, I think that meditation and solitude and silence may be just as useful. As I walk with Jesus, I hope to become more like Him, seeing people through His eyes, instead of through my lens of selfishness.
Just my thoughts on a Friday night.