A fairly common message in Christian circles today is captured in this statement:
Life is not a story about you.
In principle, I fully agree with this. I am an inherently selfish person who worries first about my own needs and desires, before I think about others.
But here’s the problem…
Life is about you.
Life isn’t about fulfilling your wants and desires but it still is about you. Life is about God entering into your life, transforming your life, and using your life to transform the world around you.
Don’t just tell people what their life is not. Tell people what their life is for.
We have these two supposedly competing desires within ourselves:
- A desire for living significant life.
- A desire to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of others.
We’re constantly pulled in one direction or the other—Others or Self. We feel guilty when we seem to be living for our own gain in the present, but we get lost in a world where “me in we” doesn’t exist. The frustration mounts, and inevitably, we give up and decide that managing the tension between living for ourselves or others is impossible.
It’s the feeling of wearing a straight jacket, where we aren’t allowed to just live. We’re constantly on our toes trying to do the “right” thing. As we manage this tension between living for ourselves or living for others we come up to the breaking point.
I read this quote from Gerald May recently. For me, it captured a truth about this struggle.
The entire process (of self-development) can be very exciting and entertaining. But the problem is there’s no end to it. The fantasy is that if one heads in the right direction and just works hard enough to learn new things and grows enough and gets actualized, one will be there. None of us is quite certain exactly where there is, but it obviously has something to do with resting.
A few things stand out to me from May’s statement:
- Self-actualization (a common pursuit today) is a fantasy.
- Self-actualization is not a pursuit into the future.
- The place we desire to be in the future can only be realized in the present moment.
Within this is what we should be after. Life is both about you and about others. It’s about God’s working within you and then you engaging with the world around you. The dichotomy we’ve created that life is either about others or about self, is a false one.
To find this abundant life you’re after, you cannot wait for circumstances to change. You must pursue the present moment.
That’s right, the person in front of you, the work assignment due within the hour, the dishes that have to be done before bedtime, or the bible study you’re barely staying awake for—engaging fully into these moments is where abundant life takes place.
The allure of the significant life is wonderful until it becomes a higher goal than being present.