I must soak you and scrub you and scour you smooth – then, only then will you be what I made, an uncluttered channel of My mercy and grace.
Fortunes are risked, friendships jeopardized, and families destroyed when selfishness rules the heart. Whether obvious or hidden, our addiction to self-interest is irrationally stubborn to change … even when it is detrimental to our well-being. Selfishness is deceptive because it promises what it can’t deliver—fulfillment apart from God. Self-centeredness is no respecter of persons. It infects babies, the young, old, rich, poor, bright, and dull. No one is immune to this deceptive vice.
How did we get this way? Scripture speaks of its terrestrial entrance through our first parents putting themselves before God (Genesis 3:6). And we their children have been doing the same ever since. So, selfishness has become such an ingrained characteristic of human nature it is virtually impossible to imagine our lives without it. Yet, freedom from the control of this vice is essential to the satisfaction we crave.
When the flute became selfish, its behavior actually sabotaged the very joy it sought. It didn’t know it was undermining its happiness because selfishness is misleading. It has a way of convincing us that the emptiness of our efforts is more substantial than it really is. As with the flute, so too does God give each of us moments of awareness when it becomes plain that our selfishness is wrecking our lives. But such awareness is quickly lost if we refuse to own our guilt. Repentance is the outcome of owning our guilt and, therefore, necessary for receiving God’s transforming grace in our lives.
Just like the flute, the loss of our joy is often related to the encrustation of attitudes and beliefs which, over the years, have actually shut out the very contentment we’ve been seeking all along. Have we allowed offense, unforgiveness, skepticism, bitterness, or hatred room to take root in our hearts? While we may justify such attitudes as protection they are actually infection. Why? Because the isolation from God they nurture alienates us from the healing that only his presence can bring.
If we want to see the renewal of God’s purpose fulfilled in our lives, we too must submit to his restorative process. Though God’s “scrubbing and scraping” may be inconvenient and painful for a season, eventually he will transform our suffering into hope and our empty selfishness into authentic joy. In doing so, we begin to break the hold of selfishness in our hearts and learn to start seeing through the pretense of its empty promises. Next week we talk about the critical role of gratitude for cultivating the welfare of our hearts.
What Do You Think?
Can you identify with the deceptive nature of selfishness? If so, what are some empty promises you once believed? Did you have a “wake-up” moment? If so, describe it.
♦ To see the video and poem this post is based on, click here.