Friday, January 4, 2013

Winners and Losers

I once gave a talk about God's love and made the point that God has no favorites. God does not have a descending scale of love. One young woman came up to me afterward, obviously distressed. "I always thought I was one of God's favorites," she told me with sadness.

What is with the inherent need to be the favorite? Why does it bug us when someone else gets the attention?

Most of us are tempted, I think, by what can be rightly called "the pride of the inner circle." We like to be the one who is needed, who is loved, who is most important. Even if we are the kind of person whose contribution is to sacrifice, we secretly have moments where we want to be noticed for sacrificing the most or the most helpful thing. "No, no - don't mention it." But we are so glad it was mentioned. If we love to humbly serve and a moment happens when thanks is given, and we are not mentioned, it is a wound. "I'm fine. I didn't do it for praise. ... But it would have been nice....!" If we are a friend, and friends are invited in, we want to be one of the first invited in. When a life is celebrated we would like to be mentioned as significant.

The pride of the inner circle is our false self wanting to be seen and separated into a category of its own - Winner!  Important! Valued! Come sit over here beside me. You are one of my closest friends. You are special.

I am not young, and I know that in almost any situation there is something of value I can give, but I also know I don't need to be in the center of things, I don't need to be in the know. I make choices to stay quietly by the side and offer to the situation what I feel God or reasonableness is requiring of me. And then ... Okay - I want to whisper this ... when I see that I am not actually IN the inner circle, I feel left out. Just a little rejected. Sad. Cheated. Unwanted just a bit.  I whisper this because it is just a whisper in me. Just a bit of me playing with a small ball of self pity. But it is there more than I care to admit! ARGH! How can this still be part of my inner self!?

We feel this way because of our human nature. It is a signal of our brokenness. But let me tell you about the relief you can feel when you accept that you are important, but you need not be the center of things. The freedom of a healthy sense of self without needing to be constantly affirmed is a moment of joyful maturity.

True spirituality connects us to our true self, the place of our belovedness and identity. It is an inward reality that lasts.

Try this when you have a moment of recognition that you are not being invited into the center of things, and if you are honest you know it bugs you - become aware of your feelings and recognize your deep need to be given a special place. You have just identified your elusive false self! That alone is a victory. Then pray a small prayer and open yourself up to the love of God. Right there. Even a small openness is enough. Maybe the size of a grain of mustard seed. Something might shift in you.

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