“It’s not about me.”
That’s the name of the book my parents gave me when I was confirmed. It’s by Max Lucado and it was the “teen edition” of the book. They also gave me a beautiful ring that I still wear often. And while that ring was instantly a hit with me, the book made its way to the bookshelf in my room and didn’t come off it for about a year. Because, let’s be real, the name isn’t exactly grabbing to a 13 year old. Especially when it seems like your parents are trying to passive-aggressively remind you of something (which is impossible, because I assure you that I was a gem of a 13 year old).
But then, the summer before I went to high school, I packed up and headed to Camp Okoboji, a Lutheran camp right on the lake in Okoboji, Iowa. I had gone to this camp every summer since I was two, but this summer would be different. This summer one of the leaders at the middle school camp asked me if I’d ever thought about being a Director of Christian Education, or DCE. I hadn’t, but the minute she said it I started to.
When I got home from camp that year, I was inspired to take Jesus a little more seriously than I ever had before. So, I picked up the only devotional book on my bookshelf, that one from Confirmation, and began reading.
I still have that book on my bookshelf. In fact, I’m looking at it right now. It has a poorly made friendship bracelet as a bookmark and it is highlighted beyond belief (I didn’t really understand the point of highlighting back then; it just felt like coloring). And in my very messy 8th grade handwriting there are all sorts of notes scribbled in the margins. Most of them are terribly embarrassing prayers that I would never in a million years share with you (listen, boys seemed really important back then) but occasionally there’s a note that reflects the beginning of a life-long lesson God is writing on my heart.
For instance, on page 32, right in the midst of all sorts of teenage angst, I wrote, “My purpose in life is to bring the glory of God to others”. Okay, so if we get nit-picky the theology is a little off. We don’t bring God’s glory to people, He works through us to show His glory to the world. But cut me a break. I was 14, people.
Maybe to you, that doesn’t seem like that big of a revelation. But let’s take a moment to think about what that really means. If reflecting God’s glory is our sole purpose in life, how does that change the way we act? How does it change how we think? Most importantly, how does it change how we love?
It’s clear that I didn’t totally get it back then. All of my prayers revolved around my wants, my needs, and the people I love (actually, if I’m being totally honest, that kind of sounds like my prayer life now). I was (okay, am) selfish. And I was beginning to realize it. On page 89 I wrote, “I get so wrapped up in myself that I act as if God can’t live without me. The truth is, I am only His messenger out of His kindness”.
That sentence, scrawled in a book by 14 year old Hannah, could have been written today by 25 year old Hannah and it would still be just as true.
Because naturally, we are selfish people. Remember Adam and Eve? They ate the fruit because they wanted to be just as smart as God. They were thinking totally about themselves, and humans have been following suit ever since.
I see it in our church all the time. People volunteer where they feel comfortable. Or they don’t volunteer at all. People avoid the hard discussions and uncomfortable moments. Families only talk about their faith on Sundays. And I can’t remember the last meeting I was in where getting someone to pray out loud didn’t feel like pulling teeth. And that’s not to call you all out. Because I do it too (see above confession). But what would our church look like if we embraced an, “Its’s not about me” mentality.
I think our life groups would be fuller, our prayer requests would be louder, and our service opportunities would be bursting at the seams. I think our hearts would collectively break for the pain of one member of our family and collectively celebrate with the joy of another. I think we’d stop talking about our church, our people, and our mission, and start talking about God’s church, the community God has placed us in, and God’s plan for us.
Church, we’ve got a lot of work to do. And it’s not always going to benefit us. Sometimes we’ll be called to heartbreak. Sometimes we’ll be called to sacrifice. Sometimes we’ll be called to vulnerability. God will work through all of these things, but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to hurt. But you have a God so loving that He gave everything He is for you: very selfish, very stubborn you. The ultimate act of selflessness. An act we are called to imitate.
And no, you’re not going to do it perfectly. You don’t have to, Jesus has that covered. So why do it? Because God has so much more planned for you than you have planned for you. He tells you so:
“Truly, truly I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these they will do.” – John 14:21
How can you start living an, “It’s not about me” life? Try starting with this prayer:
“God, your will be done. Whatever that looks like, however painful or uncomfortable that may be. Change my heart Lord, so that I really mean these words: It’s not about me, it’s all about You.”
Director of Youth Ministry
Selfish Sinner, Selflessly Saved Redeemer Lutheran Church