The flight from Addis Ababa to Washington, DC is a very long one, and it requires a stop for refueling. (My friend Clark discovered that it's necessary because when you take off from a high elevation the tank can't be full because there would be too much weight to take off in thin air. But I digress.) So we were sitting on the runway in Rome at 3 am. And I was wide awake.
I looked through my Kindle menu and decided I didn't want to dig back into the fairly intense book I was reading. So I noticed a book I had downloaded a couple of months ago: The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Tim Keller.
Turns out it is only a 48-page book and I was able to finish it before getting sleepy again. Only 48 pages, but packing a major punch.
Basically, Keller talks about the human ego and how messed up it is. It gets hurt easily because there is something wrong with it. He points out that a healthy toe doesn't hurt when we walk, only an injured one. The same is true with our ego.
He goes on to explain that there are two basic attitudes toward ego that the world promotes, both related to self-esteem: 1) An inflated ego - thinking much of yourself, or 2) a deflated ego - thinking little of yourself. But both of these are wrong! No wonder we are so messed up.
A correct view of myself, the one taught by Jesus and through the rest of the Bible, is to stop thinking of myself at all. Life is not about me, it's about the glory of God. God is my only judge, so not only should I not care what others think of me, but I should not even care what I think of me.
So your opinion is not important, my opinion is not important - only God's opinion. And he has already let me know his opinion, by sending his Son to rescue me by his death and resurrection! So I can live free, not worrying what others think (or even what I think) of me.
Wow. I have documented several places in this blog that I tend to be a people-pleaser (e.g., here). So I sat on the plane thinking about my life. I looked back over the previous 10 days, traveling with great friends - new and old - and how we had served together. Two things hit me:
- How I saw this principle lived out by so many of them in very difficult situations. My admiration for them grew, but also the realization that they would take no credit for it - it's all Jesus.
- How many times I failed to have a correct view. Allowing myself to get puffed up when something went well, or letting myself get down when something didn't. I have so far to go.
I am so thankful for God's timing. This was the right message at the right time. And one I hope not to forget. It's a short book so I'm thinking I need to read it periodically. Because if I'm going to forget myself, I can't forget this lesson.