The Heart of Selfishness

Have you experienced that moment when your heart is suddenly rend as you have a realization that you’re not okay? Staring into the vivid reflection of your life after it has snapped into focus before you. The numb aching of acceptance is set upon you by the yoke of the Holy Spirit as it brings conviction. As the warm evening lights of passing cars and street lights streaked over my vehicle, I became aware of an ever-present reality of my life. I am incredibly selfish in one particular area of my life. An intrinsic reservation that I have continued to harbor for quite sometime. Prayer.

One tool that has been quite, admittedly anecdotally, useful in illuminating how I view and relate to the world has been the enneagram. This word brings great excitement to some and intense trepidation to others within Christian circles. To some, the enneagram is a beneficial tool in exploring their personalities and how God has uniquely gifted them. For others, the enneagram is something to be avoided at all cost as it touts Christian origins but lacks sufficient evidence to be considered inspired by God. To dispel much of these concerns, I will tell you that the enneagram is not biblical in its origins or in its claims. Merely a tool, like other personality assessments, the enneagram may be beneficial to others as they begin the process of self-reflection. Along with the proper application of scripture, one may find deeper answers of their own self, which is where I find myself tonight.

If you know, you know. I score as a two on the enneagram, which is known as the supportive advisor (though I also strongly relate to sixes). Twos “are people who see the world through relationships and define themselves through their service to others. They may be selfless, loving, and giving; or dependent, prideful, and manipulative (learn more at Your Enneagram Coach).” I find it very easy to love people deeply, to serve freely. I do not think twice about giving my time to others if it means that I can help them or be, well, supportive. Honestly, I have very little consideration to give before springing into action… but where I fail most, is taking care of my own needs. Ouch… At times, I feel completely blind to what I need most or feel as though other’s should just know what I need at any given time. It’s almost like I am an enigma to myself in coming to terms with seeking help from others. I do not want to be a burden or an inconvenience to others, even though I really need help or care or love.

As I was driving home tonight, the warm glow of headlights and streetlights streaking over the windshield, I felt my heart twist. Among my usual moments of reflection, one thought came to the surface. Why is it so easy for you to go to God with someone else’s needs, and yet so difficult for you to approach God with your own? You are so selfish because you refuse to spend time with God regarding your own wellbeing. Why can’t I seem to go before God with my concerns? My fears? Doubts? Desires? Like a child clutching a precious item in their hand, stomping their feet, refusing to share before their own parent, I have refused to go before God to hand over these things. I will, without question, suit up and wage war for my loved one’s needs in prayer, but hoard my own needs from God. How does that make any sense at all?

If God is who I believe Him to be, a loving caring father who has my best interests at the center of His heart, then why do I have such a hard time coming to Him? When I need help, I sit in silence. When I need love, I stay silent. When I need forgiveness, I stay silent. When I feel completely alone in this world, why do I not go to Him for comfort? When I feel Him tugging at my heart, why do I shun His advances? When I need direction, why do I choose to run in circles instead of going to Him? My selfish heart. My incessantly selfish heart. I’ll go to Him with everyone else’s needs, but not my own. He’s worthy of meeting everyone else’s needs, but He’s not worthy of my own! The problem is me. Myself. I. I am broken, faulty, and sinful…

The truth is that God is worthy of my prayer. He is worthy to hear my needs, and He is willing to meet them. He is working my life together for a greater glory that can only be found in Him. The issue lies within me. I do not lack understanding, nor do I lack discipline, but I lack faith. If I’m being honest, I lack faith… Truthfully, my faith has been radically shaken throughout this last year. This is not a bad thing. My foundation is firm and my life has been built upon that foundation, and yet remain things which need to fade away. Faulty facades that need to be replaced with structurally sound reinforcements. I need to learn to not be selfish with my prayers to God.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him…

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

1 John 5:13-15, 20-21

I know that God is good, for He has made Himself known to me time and time and time again throughout my life. He has cared for me, provided for me, and gone above and beyond for me. Even as a petulant little child who holds his needs so tightly clutched within my grasp of selfishness, God still cares for me and beckons me to share with Him those very things that I need to let go of. So that I may know…

that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Ephesians 1:17-23

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

James 5:13-16

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:14-16

A common thread throughout scripture regarding prayer is the notion that it is so that we may know who God is. He is faithful to hear us and is faithful to respond to our petitions. Our requests (literally what the word prayer means) do not fall on deaf ears, but are heard and listened to. We may know because our prayers are responded to. Our natural posture, as believers of Christ, is to be bowed before our high priest who is faithful to make Himself known to us. In order to become more gracious and loving to myself (which is something I need to learn how to do), I must be willing to take my needs and concerns, my wants and desires before the Lord so that He may hear them and so that I may know Him more fully.

We all need to be reminded from time to time who God is. Even the most seasoned, knowledgable, and wise among us need to be reminded of the goodness of God. Conviction does not come to bring condemnation by guilt, but to make us aware of the very areas of life in which we need to become more disciplined in. While not always pleasant or enjoyable for us in the moment, what joy may be found when we realize that we already have a savior who knows and sympathizes with our weakness! He beckons us to draw near to Him with confidence and genuine desire to be with Him. Admittedly I am a hopeless romantic, and what is more romantic than the fact that God has a desire for us? His creation, that has been separated from Him by our own sinfulness, is being pursued for reconciliation. Our broken relationship with Him is being mended by the purifying blood that was poured out as a sacrifice by Jesus. God has done all of this, so that we may know.

-Terren

The Life of Obedience: A Wake Up Call

So I was originally going to write this post from a very different context. I just finished a weekend event at church with our student ministry on discipleship. While I lead a house full of freshmen, I also was asked to be the event’s videographer, so I’ve spent the better part of a day rendering media out and turning huge files into usable pieces. To pass the time as my computer rendered out about a terabyte of footage, I decided to do a little reading. Have you ever given someone advice on something, but only to then have to swallow your own medicine cause you’re not doing what you just advised someone to do? That was me, just a few minutes ago. Thanks God, for the correction and the conviction!

Anyway, back in January I attended Passion in Atlanta, Georgia with a group of friends and some of our high school seniors. While I was there, I bought Ben Stuart’s book Single, Dating, Engaged, Married as I have enjoyed Stuart from his time as the lead pastor/teacher at Texas A&M’s Breakaway Ministries. In 2015, I was able to hear Stuart speak at Passion and I’ve been listening to his sermons from Passion City Church D.C. via podcasts. Y’all, Stuart doesn’t hold his punches back, nor does the Holy Spirit lessen it’s lessons. You see, for my small group during this past weekend the focus was on truth. For more than a handful of the young men in my group said that they were at this weekend event to grow closer to God. Well, through the course of the weekend it was evident that they were not spending time with God. And honestly, neither have I.

In my college small group, for many weeks now we’ve been going back to a point that was brought up at Passion in January. The enemy, sin, has power over us because we are unable to identify where the temptation, the whispers, the lies are coming from. We do not know truth! Frankly, looking at my generation and the generations coming behind me, it’s painfully apparent that they don’t know truth either! The point is, is that lies look freaking stupid when held up against the truth! The lies look foolish! We all know those people growing up. You know who I’m describing. The people who try so hard to be something that they’re not. They stick out like a sore thumb. They’re fake. And while they may look the part, the moment they open their mouths to speak, the illusion is broken. How can we know truth from the lies? From the fake news, not to get political. Y’all, while fake news and misguided information is spread everywhere from our social media pages to the evening news, the devil is the most consistent source of fake news!

Long story short, while I was waiting for my media to finish rendering I was reading Ben Stuart’s book. One thing I’ve been focusing on and truly seeking from the Lord is ways to love people better. To share the love that God has for them through a word, a look, and/or a touch. To make an impact on the lives of those around me, and while I’ve been able to do some of that… I had a hard pill to swallow tonight. I’m not even half way through the first chapter and the Holy Spirit slapped me across the face. Y’all, I’ve been kind of idle. I’ve not been reading the Word, I’ve not been praying much. I’ve just been going through the motions. I’ve been fake. I was the very thing I was warning my students about being. Just as we have to know the truth in order to weaken the power of the lies, so too do we need to have a source of life to be a source of life to another. I’ll quote Stuart as his words are far more potent than mine.

“When you have a source of life, you are a source of life. But where there is scarcity, desperation will set in. And desperation can easily become exploitation of others. If you are disconnected from a source of life, your “oxygen tank,” then you will attempt to suck life out of someone else. You will be tempted to use people to try and get your sense of self validated.” –Single, Dating, Engaged, Married. Page 4.

Ouch. Y’all… I hate to admit it, but I’m not going to let shame have any hold over me. I’ve not been clinging to my source of life. Rather, I’ve just been going through the motions. As a leader, as someone who has people who are seeking that source of life, I’ve been letting them down. I’ve been failing myself, and failing them. You see, I haven’t been obedient in the pursuit of God. I’ve formed a habit of not doing that. While I do not believe that I’ve sucking the life out of others, nor do I believe that I’ve been exploiting people for my own gain. I do see where selfishness has crept up into my life and taken hidden roots. My desires, frustrations, and motivations have been slowly leeched by selfishness and disobedience. My ability to be a source of life to others has been corrupted, but not extinguished.

For a book that is geared toward relationships… it does not stumble from making it perfectly clear that before we can even consider pursuing someone we must first pursue God. Like a mirror, I had to read the medicine that I was giving out with some remorse. I had to evaluate where I’ve been lingering and take a look around to see the signs of structural instability and get out of there. My heart sunk realizing that I’ve put myself in this situation, the realization that I’ve been unfaithful to God. That I’ve cast aside the truth in favor of lies and selfishness. Fortunately, God sent us a helper in the Holy Spirit to convict us of our wrong doing and to place back onto a path of restoration. Anyway, I’m going to end this here, y’all.

 

Grace and Peace,

Terren-It-Up

 

The Selfish Heart: A Lesson on Thanksgiving

Since I graduated from high school, I’ve made constant stints from one food establishment to another. I started off making coffee in a book store, then moved on to a real coffee shop, then I began my own business venture as a media contractor, then I made a very brief stint as a food runner at a movie theater chain, and then went unemployed for a period of time. Through all this time and many years gone by, I’ve learned quite a bit about myself, about people, and about work. All of which has helped shape me into the person I am today. Now, last year, I started a new job at Chick-fil-A. It is not the ideal job I wish for myself, nor is it what I see myself doing for the rest of my life (but what do I know, Lord?). I must say, being a team member at Chick-fil-A is one of the least stressful, most fulfilling jobs I’ve held. I’ve been blessed with better pay as a starting position than any of the management positions I’ve held previously, I work with talented people with many various passions, traits, and skills. Furthermore, I’ve got a purpose and things I want to achieve.

During my time at Starbucks, I wanted to get promoted. I spent a year working hard and seeking betterment for myself and my team. I did eventually get promoted and then spent another year honing my skills and abilities as a leader and as an individual. During that time, I also sought to become what is known as a Coffee Master. A Coffee Master is a specialized employee (or Partner as Starbucks calls them) who has spent time to learn and study the craft of coffee. They are familiar with the process of growing, roasting, and packaging coffee. They know the ins and outs of how different regions and altitudes and levels of roasting affect the flavor of coffee. They know how to pair coffee to different kinds of pastries to bring out different flavors of the coffee and/or dessert. Have you ever wondered why chocolate pairs well with coffee? Well, semi-sweet chocolate helps high light the cocoa notes of the very popular Central America sources beans! Try it for yourself, try drinking a black, and it needs to be black, cup of Central American dark roast with a chocolate chip cookie! Anyway, a group of my partners and myself went through this process and were awarded with knowledge and a special black apron which signified our knowledge of coffee.

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Now, at Chick-fil-A I seek to continue to become a better leader and a more well rounded person. I truly have been blessed and as my signature welcome goes, better than I deserve (thanks Dave Ramsey!). So how does this relate to the title of this post? Well, over the last year I’ve been rather discontent with my situation overall. Being a middle twenties college student who still lives at home and work in fast food is not quite what I had planned for myself. Not to say that my plans were grandiose or unrealistic, but they were not inline with reality. Thus, last night I was laying in bed, as you do, when I was struck with some deep conviction… I’ve not been thankful for what God has given me. Y’all, we are far too easily for focused on what we don’t have, that we lose sight of the bigger blessings that we were not looking for. We’re not thankful enough for what God is doing, and what he’s doing in our lives! We’re blinded by own own selfishness that we make ourselves blind to the blessing God has poured out upon us! I find it scary to realize the extent in which my selfishness affects my being!

Our selfishness breeds discontentment. Nothing is ever enough! Nothing we’ve been given can satisfy the endless desires of our wandering heart, each new item that it covets temporarily fills some void that refuses to say enough! Fortunately, Christ’s death upon the cross was sufficient for salvation and to allow us to say enough is enough. Christ’s sufficiency that was displayed on that cross was and is the ultimate means by which we can experience blessing! Who am I to take part in enjoying that blessing? Who am I with my endlessly selfish and coveting heart to be among the court of Christ? Fortunately, it lies within this sacrifice that I am able to be thankful. I can identify the blessings that God has extended toward me and I am able to count them with all joy.

A position of gratitude is not one that is not always pleasant. Especially when stepping into the presence of God and having to admit that what I had or what I was seeking was not up to the standard of what God ultimately gave in the end. A thankful heart is one of gratitude and of humility. When we say that what God gives us is not enough or not good enough, we reject God’s supreme authority. We essentially tell God that we’re better than what he has given and that we’re more knowledgable of what is best for us. Who are we to speak to God like that? Who are we to say that our path is better than the one God placed before us? We’d be foolish to denounce God’s direction and seek our own. Yet our selfish hearts put us onto that path. Our selfishness rejected God before we were saved, denounced the supremacy of God. We were walking blindly through life, seeking anything to satisfy the unsatisfiable. I, for one, am tired of chasing what cannot be satisfied. I’m tired of this game of running after the things that God has said would not be beneficial to me. I tired, and its time to count my blessings.


I find it amusing when I sit down for a meal, at home or out with friends, and someone suggests that we ‘bless the food.’ One, the food was created by God for the nourishment of our bodies. Secondly, the food was already blessed because God provided it. A small qualm on my part, yet the idea of asking God to imbue divine favor (which is what the word bless is defined as) upon his creation is strange. I understand the sentiment, but we’re really giving thanks for the provision and not for God to divinely turn junk food into good calories. Well… I’m not sure what the health gurus do… you do you. It is here, where selfishness and thanksgiving collide is where I find myself. I’ve not been thankful. Or at least, I’ve not expressed my gratitude to God for his provision. Thanksgiving is demonstrated time and time again throughout the Bible. Expressed in a multitude of ways and means, thanksgiving is a celebration of provision that was freely given and/or met a need. Paul, throughout his letters (epistles), constantly begins with a statement of thanksgiving. Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and 2 Thessalonians all begin with a passage where Paul thanks God for the work being done in and through these church congregations! Then throughout the letters, continues to thank God! Time and time again, Paul expresses his thanksgiving in a meaningful way.

“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.”

-Romans 1:8

“I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given to you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge.”

-1 Corinthians 1:4-5

“For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saint, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him.”

-Ephesians 1:15-17

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy.”

-Philippians 1:3-4

“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel.”

-Colossians 1:3-5

“We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.”

-2 Thessalonians 1:3

Paul expresses a very real and a very genuine gratitude, even in the midst of his own plights. He is thankful for the numerous churches who were faithful to God and faithful to the gospel and were carrying on the commands of Christ. Thanksgiving wasn’t some passing moment of a couple sentences spread over a meal, but rather a continued lifestyle that was evidenced through Paul’s letters. Paul’s attitude is revealing of the work God did in him. Paul was humble and confident. Grateful and meek. He understood that what God would provide was better than whatever situation he found himself. This idea is plainly seen in Philippians 4:

“I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

-Philippians 3:10-13

Paul understood how God was working through him, and he was faithful to go where he led. I, over the last year or so, have not been. I desired things, good things, but the time was and is not yet right. I rushed God for things he has promised, before they are due to me. How foolish am I! Y’all, even now as I write this I’m still looking back and coming to make sense of the season of old. Of things I did not fully understand then, as I do now. There is much to be thankful for, and much to rejoice in. I’ve come to find that I’m not nearly as smart as I think I am, nor am I as holy as I think I am. Yet, I trust the Lord.

Being at the stage of life I am, I have desires which are appropriate but not yet at hand. I want to be married, to have a family, to have my ministry, to have independence, to have security. All of these are good things, but only in the time which they are appointed. I’m not ready yet.

Tonight, I was at our youth ministry where I serve. We were speaking on some things, a few topics, when we came to the very topic I now write. Anyway, this friend just made their relationship ‘Facebook official’ and we, as peers, have been celebrating it. I shared some of my experience over the last year or so, when they said something along the lines of ‘she’s coming.’ I smiled and replied, ‘and I’m waiting.’ You see, I’ve learned that it is far better to wait on God’s timing than my own. I could chase a relationship right now that would fulfill my desire of that kind of relationship. But it would not be the best of what God could provide. I could search restlessly for that someone fruitlessly, pushing God to make the time now, when I’m surely not ready. So too with the other aspect of my life, God will provide a means and a way when the time is right, and not when I want it to be.

There is so much to be thankful for, and I am thankful for the wait. God is not delaying or is he holding something back. Rather, he is growing me, challenging me, and calling me to something bigger, something better. And I am thankful for the lessons I’ve had to learn as I’ve gotten older about waiting patiently. I am thankful of the opportunities at work, to be poured into by my leaders, to be a leader myself, for the purpose and fulfillment that comes from work for God, for the ability to carry the gospel into a place where someone may need it. I am thankful for the ministry of people who surround me, who care for me, who seek to grow deeper in their faith. I am grateful for the second family that I’ve gain, who love me endlessly, challenge me to be more than I am, who instill in me qualities that make me Christ-like. I am grateful that I am able to see where I am lacking and can make attempts at addressing those areas. So, as I continue to grow older and I am continually blessed beyond imagine, I will be grateful and I will give thanks.

Grace and peace,

-Terren-It-Up


P.S. To my future wife, if you’re reading this, I pray for you now. That you’ll be held in the arms of God, that your heart is protected. I pray for your community, that they challenge you to be the faithful, Godly woman Christ has called you to be! Know that God cherishes you more than you could imagine! Trust in his timing, and find your refuge in him.

-T.