Written by Dawn Rutan
I read this the other day and found it to be quite true:
“To most people the greatest persons in the universe are themselves. Their lives are made up of endless variations on the word ‘me.’ What do people think of ME? How will thing affect ME? Will this make ME happy? Do people value ME as they should? …Have we not all, in our own experience, discovered that every endeavor that has ME as its center has no profit in it? You have set your heart, perhaps, on procuring something for the benefit or pleasure of your own great big ME, but when you have secured it, this ungrateful ME has refused to be satisfied and has turned away in weariness and disgust from what it has cost you so much to procure. Or you have labored to have the claims of this ME recognized by those around you and have reared with great pains and effort a high pinnacle on which you have seated yourself to be admired by all beholders. And right at the critical moment, the pinnacle has tottered over, and your glorious ME has fallen into the dust, and contempt instead of honor, has become its portion. Never, under any circumstances has it in the end paid you to try and exalt your great exacting ME, for always, sooner or later, it has all proved to be nothing but ‘vanity and vexation of spirit’ (Eccl. 2:11)” (God Is Enough, Hannah Whitall Smith, 132-133).
ME is an exacting taskmaster, never pleased for more than a few seconds. If your employer treated you the same way, would you not soon quit? Why try to please someone who just sneers and knocks you down every time? Why subject yourself to repeated frustration? And yet we do. “Maybe this time I’ll get everything just right and can enjoy success.” On the other hand:
“Jesus challenges us to forgive everyone we know and even those we don’t know and to be very careful not to forget even one against whom we harbor ill will. Right now someone exists who has disappointed and offended us, someone with whom we are continually displeased and with whom we are more impatient, irritated, unforgiving, and spiteful than we would dare be with anyone else. That person is ourselves. We are so often fed up with ourselves. We’re sick of our own mediocrity, revolted by our own inconsistency, bored by our own monotony. We would never judge any other of God’s children with the savage self-condemnation with which we crush ourselves. We must be patient, gentle, and compassionate with ourselves in the same way we try to love our neighbor” (The Signature of Jesus, Brennan Manning, 174).
We can either keep trying to perfect ourselves and build ourselves up despite constant failure, or we can accept God’s love and forgiveness and trust Him to do what only He can do. I find it interesting that the Apostle Paul’s list of the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21) all have self at the center: “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies and things like these” (ESV). But it could reasonably be argued that the Fruit of the Spirit (vv. 22-23) is all focused on God and others: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” If we attempt to produce that fruit while focusing on self, it will be imitation fruit at best, quick to fall to the ground. Even self-control has to come from the work of the Spirit, not from self-effort. Only when we stop trying to grow our own fruit can the Spirit grow His Fruit in us. When we take our eyes off ourselves and our accomplishments and failures, then we can watch and see what God will do.
It’s time to dethrone ME and recognize that God is the King of kings and Lord of lords, and He is making all things new.
“Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:2-3).
© 2018 Dawn Rutan. The views stated may or may not reflect the beliefs of the pastor or leadership of Dulin’s Grove Church.