My sister is my best friend. She knows me better than anyone else. Knows when I'm annoyed and trying not to be, knows when to leave me alone and how to cheer me up. She tells me when my toenails are ugly or my outfit doesn't match and she thinks I'm funnier than I actually am. However, it was not always this way.
There was a period in our history that I refer to as "the years when Heidi hated me." We shared a room for years but when she hit junior high, she got too cool for her little sis. She got her head gear, started listening that crazy music by Chicago and moved into the guest room. I remember being hurt but then excited because I got to put up all the cat posters I wanted to. We went to separate high schools and had separate friends. I don't have many regrets but one that I do have is that we weren't close sooner. Well that and I regret ever wearing as much make up as I did in the following picture. It is one my most embarrassing looks and I cringe looking at it even now but too funny to not post. Sorry Heid.
During this stage when we weren't friends, Heidi had a bunch of classic teenager moments. When my parents were late to pick her up from the house, she would sit on the curb and scowl at the world. I remember being amazed by how often and quickly she could roll her eyes. I think I even practiced rolling my own like she did. She used to say, "RRRRer, retract those claws" when I got angry at her for reading my Hello-Kitty diary. One of her favorite lines to say to me struck a cord and I still think about it today. She used to say, "Oh I'm sorry I forgot- it's Katie's world. We all just live in it." At thirteen she had mastered eye-rolling and sarcasm.
Despite the dripping sarcasm from that comment, I confess that it is often true in how I perceive the world. God has been reteaching me this lesson this summer and it has been humbling and freeing and absolutely wonderful all at the same time.
I once heard a sermon by Francis Chan with the following analogy: we are all extras in the epic movie about God's redemption story. We are allowed to play tiny parts in this masterpiece and it is an honor to be allowed the two seconds in which we pass by in the background of the movie about God and His plan for the world. It would be beyond silly to claim that the movie is about us. In the grand scheme, we play tiny roles all designed to bring Him glory. However, we (now I'll switch pronouns in case you aren't as self-centered as I can be) I often live as though the movie is all about me. I forget why I am here on earth and that is when I am impatient with others, don't offer grace, and get annoyed.
The grand irony is that when I make life all about me, my life sucks. People don't treat me like I want them to. Others get in the way of my plans or don't meet my expectations. My problems and worries are magnified and I am often upset because things aren't always going my way. What a terrible way to live and yet, I often fall into this trap and forget that it really isn't my world and life really isn't all about me. I'm understanding more and more why John the Baptist said, "He must become greater, I must become less." (John 3:30) Why is this so hard for me? I know that I must become less and yet and I continually try to steal the spotlight and make the movie about me. As long as I am making myself the star of the movie, I am failing to fulfill my purpose here on earth. This idea is the core of one of my favorite songs by Shane and Shane called "The Answer"
My happiness is found in less of me and more of you.
I have found the answer is to love you and be loved by you alone.
You crucify me and the world to me
and I will only boast in you.
Indeed, when I focus less on myself and more on my Savior, I am happier. I am happier because my worries don't seem as significant in the grand scheme of God's plan for the world. I am content playing my small, 2-second role as an extra because the star of the movie loves me and has let me play a role and has thus, given my life purpose. My purpose is to glorify Him and point the world to Him by how I live. My purpose is not to make my life comfortable and fun.
I was reminded of this while reading A Wind in the Door this summer. Yes, it's a bit of a fantasy book written for kids but it was full of biblical themes as evidenced in the following passage:
" The temptation for man is to stay an immature pleasure-seeker. When we seek our own pleasure as the ultimate good we place ourselves as the center of the universe. Man has his place in the universe, but nothing created is the center."
One of Satan's ploys to get me to stop serving and stop surrendering is to convince me that life is all about me- that I am the star and I should be trying to attain as much pleasure for myself as possible. Satan and society whisper this lie to me every day and thus it is a daily struggle to remember that I am not the star- that I have great purpose but it is not about me. It is about my Savior, the true star.
I was convicted by Brennan Manning's words about humility in his book Ruthless Trust:
"A poor self-image reveals a lack of humility. Feelings of insecurity, inadequacy, inferiority, and self-hatred rivet our attention on ourselves. Humble men and women do not have a low opinion of themselves; they have no opinion of themselves, because they so rarely think about themselves. The heart of humility lies in undivided attention to God, a fascination with his beauty revealed in creation, a contemplative presence to each person who speaks to us, and a "de-selfing" of our plans, projects, ambitions, and soul."
God gave me a glimpse of myself this summer which was scary. He revealed how much I think about myself and make life all about Katie. He also showed me how in the moments when I had an "undivided attention to Him," burdens were lifted. When I paused and allowed myself to wonder at His creation, my worries seemed small. I've been trying to practice this "de-selfing" this summer and take a posture of humility that I've lacked for so long. I've been trying to let go of my plans, projects, ambitions, and soul and let God have all of me to use as He sees fit and it has been hard. It has been hard giving up my role as the star.
I resonate with the Psalmist who wrote, "Though I constantly take my life in my hands, I will not forget your law." (Psalm 119:109) I want to be completely surrendered, yet I see my tendency to forget why I'm here. I want to make life all about God and making Him the center, but I so easily forget and so often make myself the center of my universe. I want to live as an alien and stranger here on earth, fully aware that my citizenship is in heaven, but so often I live as a resident- as thee star resident of earth.
Francis Chan had this to say on the topic in his book Forgotten God:
"It is true that God may have called you to be exactly where you are. But it's absolutely vital to grasp that He didn't call you there so you could settle in and live out your life in comfort and superficial peace. His purposes are not random or arbitrary. If you are still alive on this planet, it's because He has something for you to do. He placed us on this earth for purposes that He orchestrated long before we were born (Eph. 2:8-10). Do you believe you exist not for your own pleasure but to help people know the love of Jesus and to come fully alive in Him? If so, then that will shape how you live your life."
The battle is an unseen one but I feel it waging. The battle for my allegiance. Will I live today for myself or for my God? If I forget that I am fighting a battle, I will live for myself. Thus I have to make a conscious effort to begin each day in surrender and asking for reminders and strength and wisdom to live in a way that makes God the center instead of myself.
Another irony in relearning this lesson is that while learning it this summer, I decided to start blogging again. Seems contradictory since I'm making a whole page all about myself- my stories and my thoughts. However, I hope that this blog points to Jesus and not just myself. That is my intention. Even when I write about trivial life moments I hope it is clear that I am a slave to Christ and am living, breathing and typing because of Him and for Him.
If you know my sister, you know that she too is a servant of the Lord. She is one of the kindest people I know and is more generous and genuine than most. She is humble and patient and compassionate and joyful. She might not have been all these things when she was 13, but who was? Okay Jesus was but who else? Thanks Heid for being the big sister who pointed out when her little sister was being a self-centered brat.
I have a bunch of really awful and embarrassing pictures of Heidi and myself growing up but since I already used two, here is one normal picture so others can see how beautiful my big sister is today- nine months pregnant and gorgeous. Clearly the yodeling outfit did not do her justice.