Jesus had his 40 days in the wilderness. Cindy is having her 40 hours at the Wilderness Club at Big Cedar. Granted, my 40 hours doesn’t even knock on the door of being Spartan, but somehow, I think we are accomplishing something similar and sacred. I’m trying to renew/find my sense of self. It seems to have gotten lost – at least a part of it – somewhere along my way. So my little retreat, however indulgent, has been an attempt to regain some of that, to find a sense of wholeness that I’ve been missing. And what good little Christian girl wouldn’t then make the leap to “oh no, I’m not being very selfless” to sabotage her wilderness retreat?
For those of us who have grown up in the Christian tradition, we have been pommelled with the importance of selflessness – of being Christ-like – of being the only Jesus some people will ever see. I have tried to do this in my own life, but I’m starting to raise some questions with God on this topic. And before anyone goes all “she’s second guessing God!” on me, bear in mind that I think God kind of enjoys having a “real” conversation with us – hashing these things out – us being honest – being authentic. What’s the point of being otherwise with God? Not like you are going to be able to hide anything . . . ask Mother Teresa. But I digress.
There have been times in my life when I have spent more time in church than I have my own home, so I’ve had quite the opportunity to observe the trappings and trippings of Christianity in action. I’ve watched a lot of people – in the name of Jesus – neglect their families, their friends, and themselves to give their time and energy selflessly to the church. They don’t question, they don’t say no, they just do. Until there is nothing left to give – to anyone, even to God.
Please don’t misunderstand. I am not denigrating those who have made sacrifices and devoted their lives to serving God. I know that is part of the gig. I get it. But in our human frailty, I fear we go overboard, out of context, out of God’s intent on the big Selfless Ship (where there are no lifeboats).
I’m just not sure the word, selfless, is such a good word. If God made us who we are, if our “self” is God given, does he/she really want us to give up our “self” to be more to others? Is not being my best self – mein besseres ich – going to honor God more and enable me to relate in the best/better way to others? This is the chat I want to have with God. I think it’s the chat Mother Teresa wanted to have as she dealt with her doubts for so many years. It didn’t keep her from being the only Jesus some people would ever see. She devoted her life to a cause, but she did not give up the essence of her selfhood. That part was essential to her having something to give to the people she served. As I think about it, the only entity to whom we can give our self is the one who created it in the first place. And the Creator is going to triage and give it right back so we can become our besseres ich.
If we give up our self, what is left to give to anyone else?