Sometimes I wonder. I wonder what God's plan for my life is, and if I please Him. I wonder if I'm growing any grapes of love, any figs of joy, any kiwi of peace, any pomengranates of patience. I wonder if I'll ever marry, or if I even have a Godly view of marriage. Tomorrow being Valentine's Day, I've been thinking a lot about relationships lately. I've started realizing how much I worship myself, and how that's stunted my friendships with other people. Just for fun, I was thinking about the kind of person I'd probably be interested in marrying. And -- ugh -- I thought of myself. Isn't that sick? I don't see how you can get much more self-centered than that! I mean, I started going down the list: must be interested in science, must like to sing, must like eating nuts, must like staying up late, must be a procrastinator, etc. Pretty soon I was creating a boyfriend in my own image. Maybe this is why I'm not allowed to create God in my own image, either! Otherwise God would be a nut-eating, singing procrastinator!
There are times when I wonder what's wrong with me. Why haven't I ever had a boyfriend? Am I over-estimating my own personal attractiveness? Why haven't I ever been out on a date? Is there some horrifying part of my personality or physical makeup that's completely obvious to others, but that I'm completely unaware of? But I could ask the questions from a different perspective. I could ask "Why have I been spared the emotional stress of committment and break-up?" "Is God trying to teach me something here?" "Is God making me less attractive to the opposite sex so that I'll be spared temptation because He knows I can't handle it?" (Yikes: that's a little frightening!) "What's the purpose of the friendships I'm in right now: getting something for myself, serving my friend, glorifying Christ?" "Should I be thankful that my guyfriends aren't flippant with their compliments and thus make it easier for me to keep my focus on God?" "How can I learn to identify myself totally in Christ, and not in self-perceptions or feedback from other people?" "Do I define myself on the basis of what I look like, how I think, what I own, what I do, what I intend to do, what others say about me, how many houseplants I've killed, or in the person and work of Jesus Christ?" "Shouldn't I be thankful that God is giving me a chance to learn what a brother- and a sister-in-Christ is really like?" "How else could I learn to look to God and turn my heart to Him, except to learn to submit the biggest questions of my life to Him?" "How can my heart be turned toward God?" "Do I trust God?"
This got me thinking about the whole self-sacrifice thing. Jesus said that the sign of His disciples was love. And what is love? Greater love has no man than this, but that He lay down His life for His friend. A friend and I were talking about this yesterday, and I told her how I've always tried to skirt around this verse by interpreting it as "If I am ever called upon to die for my friend, I must do it." Since most my friends aren't called up in front of firing squads very often, I haven't needed to live up this verse quite yet. But as my friend said, it may be easier to die for a friend than to live for a friend.
Jo in Little Women talked about her desire to do something really big for her family to show them how much she loved them. But the big opportunity never came, and she kept passing up the little opportunities to show them that. I feel like that, too. I think about the little ways a person can show their concern for another person: making eye contact while asking a co-worker "How are you doing?", handing someone their silverware and plate when they're in line together, keeping an eye on someone's water cup and refilling it when it's low, keeping track of presentations and other assignments and asking how they went, etc., etc., etc.
So there's lots of opportunities for self-sacrifice. Assignment 1: Recognize them. Assignment 2: Glorify God through them.
Of course that sounds stuffy and formalistic. But it's not self-sacrifice for the sake of self-sacrifice. It's self-sacrifice for the sake of the Lover of my soul. All I know is that when I'm around people who really sacrifice themselves through Christ, the last words I would ever use to describe them would be "stuffy" or "formalistic." Love innovates. It's lightyears ahead of law. It's not breaking law; it's already rushed into an area law wouldn't reach for millennia. When I'm living by the Spirit, I'm free to love. Life isn't then "dodging laws," but "innovating sacrifices." It's saying "God, You are the most important Person there is. It's only when I'm following You that I'm free. Here: here's my life. It's Yours. Please direct me. Please help me to express my love for You by serving others, submitting to You by submitting to others. I don't care if the world looks at me and sees a failure as long as You look at me and say 'Well done.' I'm yours!"
Learning to trust God means realizing He knows my doubts. He knows I doubt Him often. But He is able to deliver me from my doubts, and to conquer the sin in my life. He is the victor, and through Him I can know victory. This goes way beyond boyfriends and valentines. It goes down to the heart itself, that deceitful organ that spews lies with every beat. He knows I don't really even know what I want, and that my prayers are half-baked confessions, half-baked covets, half-baked concerns for others. But He can take my heart and through a constant process of my submitting to Him, and allowing His Spirit to work, transform it into an organ that reflects His own heart. Do it, Lord, for Your sake, for my sake, and for the sake of everyone.