Friday afternoon we had rain, wind, and a tornado or two in our area. After this weather passed by, Charlotte and I ate pizza and watched the Dallas Mavericks on television. At one point we checked the messages on our answering machine. One was from an out-of-state relative who had heard that tornadoes had swept through parts of our area and he called to check on us. The other was from a friend who lives in a nearby community who called to make sure we knew that our area was under a tornado alert. Here were two thoughtful people who left messages expressing concern. That kind of thoughtfulness is nice. That kind of thoughtfulness is service.
Yet, so often we are totally focused on ourselves. "What’s in it for me?" That question is only the beginning as we spiral down into more self-absorption.
"Nobody is going to tell me what to do."
"I’ll wear what I want to wear."
"I don’t care what anybody thinks."
"What about me?"
"I don’t care what you think!"
The other day, I was driving on I-35 toward Dallas. At one point, signs began to appear. "Left lane closed ahead — one mile." Of course, cars in the left lane began moving over to the right lane. There is plenty of time to move over. Most cars do move over — except for a red truck and two cars behind it. No, they are going to stay in the left lane until the lane is just about to end. So they zoom by all of the people who are in the line of traffic in the right lane. They now expect to cut into the line in the right hand lane. "Hey, I don’t have time to wait in this traffic! I’ll just cut around all of these people." It’s all about me.
Perhaps you saw the most recent issue of Time magazine (April 2, 2007). The last page is an essay by Bono. He expresses concern for some of the deplorable conditions in certain parts of Africa (genocide in Darfur, chaos in Somalia and Sudan) and appeals for those of us in the West to care. He writes:
…There’s an Irish word meitheal. It means that the people of the village help one another out most when the work is the hardest. Most Europeans are like that. As individual nations, we may argue over the garden fence, but when a neighbor’s house goes up in flames, we pull together and put out the fire. History suggests it sometimes takes an emergency for us to draw closer. Looking inward won’t cut it. As a professional navel gazer, I recommend against that form of therapy for anything other than songwriting. We discover who we are in service to one another, not the self. (Bono, "Time for Miracles")
Very, very true.
Bono is right. You never discover who you are when you simply serve yourself. Many of us have never risen beyond our own self-absorption. Yet, we discover something about ourselves when we are serving others. We also discover something about Jesus whose own self-identity was that of a servant. It was Jesus who said, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45).
Who have you known that best modeled what it means to be a servant? What characteristics stood out in that person’s life?