The Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 has not only wreaked death and havoc on our world, it has also brought some unexpected difficulties—such as a toilet paper shortage. Store shelves that were normally overflowing with this common staple suddenly became bare. People have even lined up at the doors long before they opened just to get their share. And thanks for modern technology, we have heard of more than one fistfight that has broken out over the precious commodity.
On the lighter side, I have never seen so many humorous memes in my life. I did not realize how much creativity a toilet paper shortage could spark.
All was not bright, however, because the elderly often found their grocery carts empty, befuddled by the craziness of it all. No small number of stores eventually began providing restricted hours for senior citizens only.
I Will Ascend!
Thinking back to Lucifer’s folly in attempting to stage a coup for God’s throne, we can recall the essence of his motivation: “I will ascend!” Quoting the now-fallen angel in Isaiah 14:13-14 (HCSB), we notice the phrase “I will” used no less than five times:
“I will ascend to the heavens.”
“I will set up my throne above the stars of God.”
“I will sit on the mount of the gods’ assembly in the remotest parts of the North.”
“I will ascend above the highest clouds.”
“I will make myself like the Most High.”
“I will” speaks of both self-centeredness and the desire for control, but we will limit our focus to the former for now.
Thinking about God as the Creator of all things, we recognize that He is truly at the center of the universe. All proceeded from Him, all depends upon Him, and all belongs to Him. Thus, when angels or humans decide to make a play for the Creator’s throne, centrality is integral to their agenda.
Fighting to be at the Center of the Universe
When children are born into this world, self-centered thinking is the norm. A two-year-old at a birthday party of peers quickly claims ownership of every toy, oblivious to the fact that they were all intended for that day’s guest of honor. The resulting chaos can be painful to bear. Even for older ages, host parents have been known to provide expensive gift bags so that no children can take offense to someone else sitting at the center of their universe.
The work required to raise other-centered children can be exhausting. Petty differences, nonstop conflict, and a constant need for attention can be enough to drain even the most patient parent. Only with painstaking wisdom—and through considerable frustration—do parents labor to diminish the natural selfishness of their children. Those who do their jobs well will raise children who become less self-centered as adults—to varying degrees.
Ironically, it is possible for well-meaning parents to exacerbate the problem by creating child-centered households. Wanting the best for their children, they fail to understand the naturally selfish tendencies of humanity. Everything becomes about the kids, and the kids begin to see themselves as little gods who are destined to rule their own little kingdoms. The problem becomes all the worse as those children grow into adulthood. Not only is the immediate family adversely affected, but also society as a whole.
Self-centeredness, though, is not always just about being selfish. Pain tends to make us self-centered. If my big toe hurts, it demands my focus. The same applies for emotional pain. When we are broken and hurting inside, we naturally tend to focus on those places that hurt. And if we have not learned to cast off the burden of condemnation, we might compound our struggles by feeling guilty for nursing our wounds.
Moving Beyond Self-Centered Living
How do we navigate these tumultuous waters created by self-centered living? Not easily! However, if we remember that rest begins with God, we can begin to move in the right direction. By kneeling to honor Him as God, we begin to set the course of our lives on a healthy trajectory. And by giving Him the freedom to be God in our lives, we allow Him to start the process of healing and rebuilding. Heaven’s ultimate goal is to “reform” us into the selfless image of Jesus Christ.
Jesus was whole, with nothing broken and nothing lacking. Not only did He live selflessly, He never allowed personal offenses to take root. The Son of God willingly forgave even those who hurt Him the most. And not only does Jesus serve as our example and model, He possesses both the wisdom and power to make us like Him.
Self-centeredness is the most natural thing in the world, but we are called to be a supernatural people. When we allow God to have His way in our lives, little by little, He restores us to wholeness. In the process, He also causes the fruit of love to grow in our lives so that we genuinely care about others. A basic pattern helps to keep this process moving forward:
- Confess our selfish thoughts and acts to the Lord.
- Repent by turning from a self-centered lifestyle.
- Invite the Lord to touch the broken areas of our lives and to have His way.
There is only one God at the center of the universe, and none of us are Him. The sooner we figure this out, the more at rest we will all be!
*Bob Santos has authored several books, and this post is drawn from an upcoming work titled The Search for Rest.