Vanessa Le is a wife and mom to four children age five and under. She enjoys reading, playing the piano, studying theology, and generally being Mommy. She is a member of Orlando Reformed Presbyterian Church in Orlando, Florida.
I just did it again. A friend called me to announce the news of their engagement. Although genuinely happy for them, it didn’t take long for sinful thoughts to creep to the surface: Why wasn’t my story as beautiful as theirs? Why didn’t I get the privilege of marrying someone who had grown up with me, who had been my friend for years? Why did my story include so much struggle?
From this snapshot of my thoughts, you would think that I am a bitter and lonely old maid who never got to experience the fulfillment of her biggest dreams. On the contrary, I have encountered grace; I am happily married; and I am thrilled to be expecting our fifth child. I am convinced that the root of the problem is this: I am selfish and I live in my own world.
When it comes to the Christian life, have you ever found your biggest problem to be plain, old, simple, recurring selfishness? Whether it’s as simple as gritting your teeth in anger as your toddler cheerfully pulls out your garden behind you; whether it’s asking why not me, God? whenever someone else experiences a sweet season of joy; or whether it’s wondering why everyone except you seems to be enjoying the changes at church, our problem is often the same: we are selfish and we live in our own worlds.
Selfishness is as old as the Garden of Eden. What motivated Adam and Eve to eat from the forbidden fruit? A desire to be like God – in other words, they wanted to please themselves. They wanted to be the ones making the decisions, the ones calling the shots, the ones deciding which fruit they could and could not eat.
My selfishness often takes on a similar form. When I find myself frustrated with my husband, often it really boils down to simple selfishness. I want things done my way; I want him to understand me; I want him to not annoy me! In other words, I want to be like God – I want the world (or, more simply, a few people close to me) to revolve around me. Because I am selfish and I live in my own world.
Jesus is the exact opposite of selfishness. He gave up what was rightfully His – infinite power, the riches and glory of heaven, and perfect communion with His Father from all eternity. For what? He gave all this up for the agony of the cross, for being counted sin when He knew no sin, for being punished, forsaken, by His Father, all for someone else.
In the midst of your selfishness, do you ever simply feel that you are not good enough? By whatever scale you are measured, you are found wanting. You are impatient with your children. You are inconsistent in your discipline of them – and of yourself. You read your Bible and immediately forget it. Sometimes you criticize the sermon, and other times you love it but cannot remember one word by Wednesday.
Be encouraged, dear friend. In the midst of those selfish moments, Jesus reaches you even there. The gospel is not too big to fit into the little moments; its very largeness fills the space. Even that time when you yelled at your child for merely touching you, that time you felt the sorrow of unfulfilled expectations crushing you, that time you were simply being selfish, Jesus’ mercy and forgiveness is there. He endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him. What was that joy? The joy of forgiveness. The joy of welcoming selfish sinners into His family. The joy of saying to His Father, “Her sins are forgiven; she is mine.”
As you find yourself selfishly living in your own world, run to Jesus. He can bear the weight of your unmet expectations. He can bear the sorrow of your broken relationships. He can bear the mundane annoyances. Someday, He will lift you up to glory, to be with Him in perfection forever. In the meantime, your selfishness will need to be confronted and put to death time and time again. New seasons in life bring new opportunities for such confrontation. Don’t run away from the fight; rather embrace it in the knowledge that you are redeemed, forgiven, loved. Run to Jesus. His unselfishness enables our unselfishness. His love covers us, at our best and at our worst. Through His power we are being made new, until one day we all with unveiled face shall see Him as He is. And then every selfish thought, word, and deed, will forever be gone. Then, I shall finally be perfect and live in heaven – the world not of selfishness, but of love.