November 28, 2012
Do You Have "I" Issues?
"He must become greater; I must become less." - John 3:30 (NIV)
In the late '70s I sat with my folks in a hospital room in the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. The doctors who had just completed tests on my eyes were explaining what it meant to have retinitis pigmentosa. They described how I would slowly lose my remaining sight and eventually be totally blind. My mind raced and my heart welled with confusing emotions. I was silent in that hospital room that day.
A few days later at my next visit, I only wish I had been silent.
We went back to the same room with some of the same doctors. This time it was to help me get on a rehabilitative program. One doctor described how large, thick glasses might help with the little vision I still had. Another discussed walking with a cane. Another doctor told me how important it was for me to have an oversized magnifying glass and advised me to use a flashlight to find my locker at school.
They stepped out of the room, and with full adolescent belligerence I ranted to my parents. "I will not wear any of that junk or use that embarrassing stuff! No way! I will not look weird!"
Just as I finished my outburst, the door opened and my new rehab counselor "rolled" in. Being legally blind, I couldn't see him well enough to detect what my mom described to me later.
He was blind in one eye, his face was disfigured, he was missing an arm, and his legs evidently weren't functional. What I could detect, even without sight, was that his voice was only audible by using an apparatus that made it sound synthesized.
Unfortunately he arrived just in time to hear my tirade about looking weird.
I was mortified by how self-centered I acted. I was humiliated by my own smallness and pride. I know he was a professional who most likely understood my immature response, but he also was a man who had lost his former physique and abilities, and who probably felt "weird" when he looked in the mirror. I was so ashamed.
I was only a few days into learning to live with blindness when I received my first lesson: when I am most self-aware, I am most miserable. Even today, as a 48-year-old woman, I still feel tinges of self-pity, self-awareness and self-absorption.
"I don't feel that's fair to me."
"Do I look okay in these jeans?"
"I don't think she likes me."
"I look weird when I can't make eye contact. I don't want people to notice."
"I need, I want, I wish."
When a big "I" is the center of our thoughts and feelings, we truly are miserable!
Perhaps that's because "I" is also in the center of pride and sin. Ouch!
Jesus said in John 12:24 that "... unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone." Alone is a miserable place to be.
"But," Christ continued, "if it dies, it bears much fruit." (ESV) The principle is this: when it is all about us, we are like that seed that is unwilling to die. Consequently, we find ourselves alone in the prison of our own self-awareness. But, when we are willing to turn our big "I" into a little "I," we are then ready to experience real life, satisfying life.
God is teaching me that true self-esteem comes from being reduced—less of me, more of Him. As I am willing to relinquish my sense of self—self-pity, self-awareness and self-absorption—I am finding simplicity in an identity that comes from His life in me, rather than an identity based upon me, myself and I.
Today, let's choose to be more full of God than we are of ourselves.
Dear Lord, I want to decrease so You will increase in me. May I be like a seed, willing to die, so I can truly live and give life to others. May my letter "I" not be in pride or sin, but may it be found in Christ. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Do You Know Jesus?
Missing Pieces: Real Hope When Life Doesn't Make Sense by Jennifer Rothschild
Me, Myself and Lies: A Thought-Closet Makeover by Jennifer Rothschild
Read more encouragement from Jennifer by clicking here.
Reflect and Respond:
Ways to shrink your letter "I":
1. Focus on someone else's needs. Yours will feel less obvious.
2. Grant someone else the attention you are trying to get for yourself.
3. Begin your day with this question, "How may I serve You today, Lord?"
Matthew 22:37-39: "Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" (NIV)
Psalm 27:8: "My heart says of you, 'Seek his face!' Your face, Lord, I will seek." (NIV)
Philippians 2:3-4: "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others." (NIV)
© 2012 by Jennifer Rothschild. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries
616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
Matthews, NC 28105
Originally published Wednesday, 28 November 2012.