Tuesday, January 27, 2009

it's not really all about me

I belong to an outfit (CRM/NieuCommunities) that develops people. We invite skeptics to consider; we encourage seekers to follow; and we coach followers to lead. We are called to help mentor people to be who they were created to be and to do what they were divinely designed to do. But there is an inherent risk in that pursuit. We can subtly and inadvertently begin to nurture a culture which unconsciously begins to act as if "it's all about me." We can even risk becoming a people who functionally behave as if our own well-being and personal development is paramount and the mission we have been invited into is collateral.

I often ask people if the things they are doing are "life-giving." The premise is that you've got to have a life to help give a life. The image that comes to mind is the flight attendant dutifully instructing parents that in case of emergency to put on their own oxygen masks first and then to put them on their children. Makes sense. You've got to be breathing to help anybody else get air.

Beyond just the pragmatics of prioritizing life-giving actions is a solid biblical foundation. Jesus himself said, "I came that you might have life and have it to the fullest." Scriptures seem to teach us that God wants us to be full of life. But scriptures also teach us that we will find life in ways we may not have counted on or hoped for. We find it in service. In simplicity. In sacrifice. In other-centeredness. Even in death. Jesus summed up this counter-cultural pathway to life when he said, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me."

Somehow in Jesus' economy life is found by giving it away. We take in food, drink, love, and counsel in the expectation of immediately sharing it with others. We live as we live on mission.

And so as we develop people we are right to instruct them to put on their oxygen masks first. But to that counsel we need to add to do it expeditiously and with your eyes fixed on those gasping for air because this actually is an emergency.


Sarah said...

Hey Rob,

I just love this little essay. It's great. Thanks so much. You are right on and we all would do well to think about this truth more often. I think that Americans or perhaps Westerners in general have difficulty with this one. Then again, I think it is the human predicament to believe "it's all about me."

Tim McDonald said...

Great post Rob. I wonder if the whole idea of self nurture hasn't been inflated BECAUSE of the continuous messages of "having a good self esteem" that we are fed in our culture. I think it can be hard for people to actually believe it isn't all about us because that is what we have been told for SO long. Perhaps the difference between pursuits that are "life giving" and "life hoarding" comes down to momentum... what keeps the athlete moving are foods and habits that create forward energy and movement NOT things that make them fat (even if they love them).

Christiana Rice said...

Thank you for this, Rob. I needed to hear this today.

It is so easy, even as I vision for the future or make plans and goals, to be driven by the anticipation of the fulfillment of my own ideals. Yes, we have to breath to help others breathe. We have to be fully alive and empowered to empower others but maybe its more of a cyclical process then an order. We breathe in God, we help others breathe, and then those we serve help us breathe in God some more .......

rad said...

I enjoyed the post. The question, "Am I doing things that are life-giving" is a poignant question that must be asked by all who profess to follow Christ. It is one of the major elements of the Kingdom.
Thanks! Hope all is well in SD.

Daniel Ra