I was struck this week by my own self-centeredness. Not that this should come as a surprise; however, every so often one begins to feel that common sins like selfishness and pride should no longer be so deeply rooted in one’s heart. Yet, in my personal experience, this relaxed attitude is often the tell-tale sign that these personal failings have staged a comeback. Pesky strongholds strengthen their grip and manifest themselves in my communications, attitudes, and relationships. With chagrin I am reminded of Socrates words: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” My unexamined life is barely worth examining – much less living.
Since middle school, however, the words of Romans 12:1-2 have regularly taken center stage in my meditations and in my prayers. Apostle Paul, the poster child for sacrificial, transparent living, wrote “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
Do you have scripture verses like these that the Holy Spirit uses over and over again to convict you of sin and make apparent the straight and narrow? Are there lifetime passages that resonate in your heart, challenging you to break free of the “weights that so easily ensnare”? (Hebrews 12)
I certainly do. My heart’s cry has been to be transformed into Christ’s image, proving what is the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God. Despite my failings, I believe that God sees my heart and sets up warning street signs: “Lauren, Lauren, LAUREN . . . don’t go that way. Danger ahead. Caution – Sin Crossing.”
One of those road signs appeared this past week in a very unlikely form. A grad school assignment required me to study and describe “servant leadership.” I initially set about this task without much thought or personal application. However, as I wrote about what it means to serve – selflessly serve – as a form of leadership, I realized how far my own leadership style had strayed from the core principles of servanthood.
I like my own way of doing things.
I like considering my own needs before I consider others’ needs.
I like loving and even “serving” when I will benefit from my actions.
I like respecting authority figures in my life when I agree with them.
That’s not true servanthood. Servants have no rights. Servants aren’t masters of their own time. Servants don’t get to choose what orders to obey. Servants don’t have the luxury of self-pity. Servants seek to please and meet the desires of everyone around them, and then and only then are they able to consider their own needs.
What areas of my life am I supposed to take the role of a servant? The answer is simple. ALL. In all areas, I should be loving others as Christ loved me. . . in my role as a wife, in my role as a friend, in my role as a daughter, sister, teacher, church leader, mentor . . . the list could go on and on.
I must learn the balance between taking care of myself and identifying when I need to recharge and taking care of others’ needs and serving them. That, however, is a musing for another day . . .
Today, having recognized my self-centeredness for what it is, I have determined to repent, ask for God’s help, and change. How? Daily dedicating my life as a living sacrifice. Hourly asking for Christ’s perspective on the situations and people around me. Moment by moment loving others when I don’t feel like it, or it is not convenient.
To my husband, I will strive to care about what you care about and honor you as the incredible man of God that you are. To my family, I will try to support you and stand with you – not in pride, but in humility. To my friends, I will laugh with you and cry with you. I will feel deeply your joys and your sorrows. To my students, I will extend my arms wide to embrace you and your needs, as Christ commissioned me as your teacher.
I’m going to fail. I can count on it. But, my prayer will remain, “Lord, make me a servant. Perfect. Pleasing. Acceptable.”