In my last post I began this series about things I am learning through leaving “normal life” in 2006 to do mission work with my family as a full-time “job.” Here’s the list:
1. I am selfish.
2. God provides.
3. My wife needs me.
4. My kids need me.
5. I should say “yes” more often.
6. Saying “yes” often requires dying to self and I’d rather not.
7. There is a limit to how many people I can be in community with.
8. Prayer is powerful and I often fail to believe it.
9. God has a lot to say and I often don’t really want to hear it.
10. Moving is unbelievably hard.
11. I nearly always think I’m right but “going” often proves me wrong.
12. God redeems.
I want to begin unpacking each of these in separate posts. One of the hardest revelations that continues to hit me is that I am so selfish. There is hardly a moment that passes where I am not tempted to serve myself first in whatever I choose to do.
I remember sitting at a dining table at The King’s Lodge in England in 2007. There we ate together in community with everyone on the base as we attended our Crossroads Discipleship Training School. Because food is expensive in England and the base tried to maximize each dollar toward training and ministry, we often had simple meals served to each table “family style.” The meal might be one-half of a baked potato (in England it was called a “jacket potato), and a bowl of canned baked beans for everyone to share. I am a large human being and that always seemed insufficient to me, but I also continue to learn I am a spoiled American used to eating large portions and thus maintaining my XL wardrobe.
At the time my kids were only 8, 5, and 3, so, if no one else sat at our table, I might get extra portions, especially if it was food my children didn’t like (think cauliflower and cheese casserole or look up ploughman’s lunch). I would find myself, the wonderful compassionate Christian I am, hoping that no one would join us, so that I could monopolize any extra portions. What I’m saying is that I was more concerned about eating a larger portion than I was about enjoying time breaking bread with another child of God. I was willing to forgo increased relationship for a few crusts of bread. And I am an extrovert who loves talking with people. I might as well have been the rat who runs through a kitchen snagging whatever morsels he can but avoiding people at all costs.
Another example? Well, how about when I am driving somewhere and am completely unwilling to stop at a scenic overlook or drive a more scenic way (even when every member of my family begs to do so), simply because it would be inconvenient for me to do? Or what about the times I am feeling exhausted so I put the kids to bed early or just crawl in bed myself and leave it to Tara? One off times of seeking out a bit of personal comfort might not be so bad, but when I think about how I go through each day I discover that so many of my decisions are self-motivated and designed to comfort me. Moreover, they really are never decisions I make to be alone to pray or seek more of God. 1 Corinthians 7:5.
Jesus was human like us and we see him on occasion going off alone. I really think those were moments where he recognized he was being tempted to act selfishly or to seek personal comfort. The good news is that when he had those temptations he went to the Father to find his strength and comfort. It was after time alone with his daddy that Jesus had the strength to come back to the disciples or the throngs of people and serve them further. He demonstrated that it was possible to be human and not submit to the god of self.
My selfish ways are strong. Going on mission with my family has helped me see how often I choose my own comfort over the needs of other people. Simply living lavishly in America with toilets that flush, showers and hot water, hot meals every day (often three and any of those at restaurants, too), more than one pair of shoes or underwear, and so much more, while others eke out a life on two dollars a day – something that working internationally has helped me realize – reminds me constantly of how I still pamper myself at the cost of others in nearly limitless ways (consider Amos 2:6-8). By God’s grace I will continue to grow more like Jesus and learn to be less selfish. Romans 8:29.