The prayer was simple but rather profound. Eight words that zeroed in on the root of the problem – “Dear God: I have a problem. It’s me.” There is no doubt that in our Western culture we are more individualistic than in some other cultures. Generally speaking, things are centered on ourselves – the things we like or don’t like, our desires, our needs, our wants, and more. It is said that the three big issues facing our generation are consumerism, individualism, and a sense of entitlement. Everything around us seems to reinforce that message – our individual rights to this, our individual rights to that. “What about me?” “How does this or that affect me?” “What is it in for me?” are just some of the questions we ask ourselves when faced with certain situations. It is as if we are wired for selfishness.
Not surprisingly, we take the same attitude into our spiritual lives. If we are not satisfied with what is happening in our places of worship, it is “their problem” because our attendance is dutiful and we come only to be entertained and be served. Let someone else work with the children, including ours. Let someone else be a ministry volunteer. All of this while we sit critically of those giving of their time and themselves, finding fault with what they do, how they do them, while thinking to ourselves we could do it much better. If only we had the time or the interest.
Jesus calls us to live above ourselves. In Luke 9:23-24 we read, “Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it'” (NIV). In another instance, He said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it dies, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal” (John 12:24-25, KJV). The words “verily, verily” underscore the importance of the truth of His Words. Though speaking of His death, we can apply the very same principle to our lives. As long as we live for ourselves, individualistically, we live alone. It is only when we die to ourselves and start living for God and others that we bring forth much fruit. English writer and art critic John Ruskin (1819–1900) puts it this way, “When a man is wrapped up in himself, he makes a pretty small package.”
“Dear God: I have a problem. It’s me.” My self, my ways, my desires, my attitudes, my ways of thinking, my ways of seeing, my ways of being. Isn’t it time we yield to His lordship over our lives and allow Him to live through us? A time to surrender ourselves to His will and His ways? In the words of the hymn writer, “Let me lose myself and find it Lord in thee / May all self be slain, my friends see only thee.” It is only then that our lives will be transformed from being centered on ourselves to being sweet-smelling fragrances of God’s grace. A grace that we willingly extend to others. How are you living?