So, I’m waiting in line at the store. I just have to buy this one item. It should take five seconds! I should be home by now! But there’s two people ahead of me. And I swear they are stalking up for the nuclear apocalypse! How much toilet paper does one guy, actually need?!
Get out of my way! I have places to go—like my bed. My needs are a lot more important than yours!
And the next day I’m sitting by two other people. They exchange looks and smiles. They’re obviously laughing about me, right?
Wait. The world doesn’t revolve around me? There’s like six billion other people here? That’s funny. Sorry. I spend most of my time just interacting with one of those people—me.
This Lent, I’ve been particularly interested in the ego. I’ve always known I am selfish—nothing new there. But, I’m just now starting to realize the lies my ego tells me.
My ego distracts me and actually steals my joy.
Just for clarification. Egoism is not the same as being self-aware. I once knew a guy that said he was going to try to eliminate the word “I” from this vocabulary. I might be wrong—but that doesn’t seem like helpful solution.
There’s a very healthy and necessary kind of self-awareness. Being self-aware helps me to emphasize with those in pain, recognize my own needs, and realize when someone is hurting me. We have to be able to know and maintain our identity. Otherwise, we risk burn out or co-dependency. We can’t give ourselves to others if we don’t have any part of ourselves to actually give.
This self-awareness becomes a problem when I am looking at myself for my own sake—for my own glorification and validation. When I stop seeing myself as God’s instrument, and I see myself as my own master, that’s when my egoism and selfishness come to play.
The tricky thing is that I think our egos can be super sneaky. In fact, my ego plays off my normal desires.
For example, I’ve really come to realize that I find a lot of validation in how others see me. I remember being out of college and applying for jobs. I knew I had the skills to do this or that job. But it was really important for this potential employer to know that I was good at this or that thing. When I was rejected, I began to think: “Oh. Maybe I’m not good at this. This employer certainly doesn’t think so.”
Or when I teach a baptism class. I want that external validation that God used me bring this young family closer to Him. Without that validation, I feel insufficient.
Or I reach out to form a friendship with someone and I feel written off. What happened? Am I insignificant?
The struggle is that desires to succeed, to be seen, and to be known, are all good. But, because of our egos, they become disordered. Instead of looking at how God sees me, I become overly concerned with how others, or how I even see myself. I spend so much time on myself, I forget how God sees me, And, as his creation, all that really matters is how my Heavenly Father sees me.
If I can use an metaphore for a second. The Lord is an artist and I’m His paintbrush. My ego makes me forget that brushes can’t paint their own picture (maybe someday they can—in which case—freaky). A paintbrush doesn’t have the power to paint itself, or even to know exactly what it is painting. It just obeys the movement of the artist.
Maybe that’s what God is asking of us. God isn’t asking us to make a masterpiece, but to simply be the instrument He uses to create that masterpiece. Maybe God simply wants our “yes”.
Of course, having this trust to be God’s instrument or “paint brush” requires a lot of wrestling with the Lord. Frankly, my ego doesn’t want to be the paintbrush. I want to paint what I want, or I’d at least like to know what it is I’m painting.
But, I have to learn to trust that the Lord knows what He is doing. To overcome my ego, I have to go to Jesus and ask, “Hey! This is what I see! How do you see me?”
The reason why prayer is so important is because it reminds us of who we are. We have to go to the Lord and see ourselves the way He sees us. The only way to free ourselves from selfishness is to take our eyes off ourselves and fix our eyes on Christ.
But my ego can even find me in prayer. Maybe my prayer starts out fine, but sometimes, it can turn into a monologue,full of sadness and self-pity. My ego robs me of my joy, because I lose sight of how the Lord is working in my life. I’m so focused on the things, people, and problems of this world, that I lose sight of Jesus and the blessings he Has given me. My ego distracts me, because instead of taking time to come closer to the Lord, I’m too busy gazing at my belly button.
My ego looks for validation from others. When I don’t get it, it tells me I’m inefficient or insignificant. But, when I lift my eyes to the Lord, I realize that He is the artist and I am His paintbrush. I find my peace when I recognize that my value is in being a daughter of the Lord. The Lord has and will continue to fulfill my needs and desires. And the Lord has and will continue to use me—even when I don’t always see it.
So, as we journey through Lent, lets take the time to go the Lord in prayer. Let’s ask Him, “Who am I to you?”. Let’s not be afraid to struggle and ask for the trust we need to look out of ourselves, and into the eyes of our Savior and Divine Friend.