Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Less is More

There are many hours in my day spent in utter selfishness. Not necessarily overt selfishness, bred from a true desire to put self first, but selfishness nonetheless, fueled by a perfectionist tendency to insist upon my own way. I am acutely aware of my own sometimes insatiable need to control and to call the shots. I have such difficulty in laying down arms and surrendering even the smallest detail to someone else's control. Problematic, yes, and especially when that someone else is really Someone else, the One who is really behind the wheel.

I take such delight in running myself ragged, insisting to the world by my frantic actions and my stress level that I am, in fact, a big deal. Not only that, but my frenetic pace of life indicates a level of hopelessness and futility in that, no matter how productive the day has been, when I lay my head down at night, there are more items than not which haven't been checked off the to do list.

Where to go from here? It's not like an extra hour in the day would yield more fruit... If anything the days when I'm abandoned to His will and ignoring my own timetable are the most productive. But is that truly what we're called to: productivity? What about perseverance and charity and patience, things of little value in this culture of immediate gratification? There's a gratifying simplicity in having to live on somebody else's timetable, however frustrating it may be at times. It helps to remember then, that we are all on His timetable, ultimately choosing whether or not to do His will each day.

If selfishness springs from misguided confidence, then the natural antidote is humility. Real humility has little to do with poor self image and everything to do with an appreciation and respect for the wonder that God has created in your unique person. It's humbling (and apparently not a genesis for cognitive dissonance!) to realize that there are certain tasks you were created to perform, legacies which will go unfulfilled without your cooperation, and yet are ultimately impossible apart from Him. So where then lies the balance between self-reliance and selfish reliance?

I think it's in the intention and the disposition of heart, the recognition that there are some things we can do and do well, but with the acknowledgement that any of our good is ultimately a measure of His goodness working through our docility. Comforting and challenging, this perspective leaves little room for selfish stress. Instead, we are continually confronted by the reality of our own frailty, our inability, our incompetency, even. Especially where matters of morality are concerned.

Because we are ultimately flawed, we cannot and do not operate properly apart from Him. Herein lies the chief difficulty in human over achievement: there is no such thing. It's an oxymoronic turn of phrase from a (much) more innocent time when real human achievement was possible, that is until a selfish desire to control struck a dissident chord in the melody of creation. We've been hacking away at the wrong notes ever since, and sometimes the faster we play, the worse it can sound.

Selfishness then, in addition to being contrary to His desires for us, is actually detrimental to our eventual success. It makes us smaller than we already are, and more powerless than we are to begin with. One of my great heroes says it best in a concise reflection on pride that cuts to the core: "I'm not much, but I'm all I think about."

Think about that.

1 comment:

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