I just finished reading the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan. Altogether it was convicting at times and a nice base for discussion. But the last chapter is what got me going more than anything else–and the line that struck me wasn’t even from Chan. He quoted a woman, Amy Dillard I think, saying, “How you live your days is how you live your life.” That stopped me in my tracks. “What do I do during the day?” I thought. Well, I work, I run errands, I clean, I work out, I cook, I watch TV, I spend time with my husband, I spend time with friends. Nothing really out of the ordinary from the average American, really. The problem is, the average American can be defined by one word: selfish.
Anyone at Mission Network News will tell you our jobs are pretty high-stress. We have daily deadlines, we are trying to look for news from a perspective virtually no one else has or will report on, and occasionally the stories we write can be so high-security that if a mistake is made, a life could literally be on the line. At work, it’s easy to focus on what I have to get done, and even easier to grumble (out loud or in my mind) at the work load because it may be something outside of what I want to do. (It’s a little embarrassing even discussing this when I think about the martyrs, and persecuted believers, and suffering refugees that I write about on a daily basis, but the truth is, throughout all of that, I still manage to focus on my wants and desires.) When I come home from a day of work in this kind of environment, my default is still me. I want to veg out in front of the TV, do something mindless, and eat dinner. It’s hard to call up a friend to check in, to write a note to my sister, or to even just consider that my husband could have had a rough day too. I’m a generally caring person, but I still find myself asking more often than not, “What does Elisa feel like doing right now?”
Some people would probably justify that. My friends will sometimes tell me that since I work a high-stress job, I deserve a break. It’s nice of them I suppose, but the trouble is, I start to believe it. But where in the Bible does it say, “Work hard until you don’t feel like it, and then focus solely on yourself”? If my days reflect my life, and my days are focused on me, my life can only be about…me. And I’m not sure that’s what Christ intended when he told us to pick up our cross and follow Him.
As I read that line from Amy Dillard, at first I thought about all the significant changes I must make to have a better day-to-day, to have a better overall life. Volunteer more! Go on a mission trip! Sell my stuff! But as I read on in that last chapter, I realized that not everyone is called to the same thing. In fact, I may be called to continue an “average” American life simply with a different focus. There is nothing wrong with a life that looks average when it’s lived for the Lord. My husband’s grandfather was a man I admired more than almost any believer, but really, the story of his life was not exceptional. He was a builder who moved from Norway to the States as a teen, never finished high school and never went to college. He didn’t sit on the board of a ministry, and I don’t know if he ever went on a mission trip. But there was something so defining about this man that just radiated Christ. He had Lymphoma toward the end of his life, and it seemed like every nurse wanted to work in his room. The joy and love that he showed to everyone on a daily basis characterized his entire life. His love for the Lord defined him. Out of all the words I would use to describe him, “selfish” would not be on even the bottom-most words on the list.
So for now, I am taking baby steps. I have started to just ask God daily to open my eyes to the wants and needs of those around me, and to respond to those before I respond to myself. I realize that asking God to help me see others’ needs is a far cry from actually being a selfless person, but maybe taking this small step on a daily basis will help to make my life a reflection of a loving person and a loving God.