By Kevin Howell
I have the tendency to be self-absorbed.
I focus on solving my own problems, knocking items off my daily to-do list, and sticking to my schedule. When things get in the way of that, I see it as an attack on my way of life, an attempt to sabotage my day, a conspiracy against Kevin, as if the world must kowtow to my comfort.
I’m not always like this, but I can regress into that state. It’s easy to be patient, loving, and sacrificial Sunday afternoon after church, or when you’re around close friends, but in the middle of the week a chatty co-worker or a long line at Starbucks sets off my selfishness.
Speaking of Starbucks, I was waiting on line the other day, and the couple in front of me was ordering the entire freaking menu. They had a list of drink orders for the Brady Bunch or something. It didn’t help that there were only two baristas working either. The couple was already testing my patience, then the guy has the audacity to eye the bakery section and ask for one of everything.
Really? One of EVERYTHING? This ain’t Dunkin Donuts. People don’t do this at Starbucks.
Fed up, I was on the verge of saying something, then the guy turns to me and says, “Sorry, we’re at a funeral and getting orders for our family.”
Yeah, felt like an ass. Hadn’t noticed they were dressed in all black. Waiting to order that latte didn’t seem to matter in light of their loss.
It was a humble reminder that my feelings aren’t the only ones that matter. That my agenda can endure some delays. That my schedule can be adjusted. That every day, I need to look outside of myself.
This was an extreme case, but one that slapped me out of selfish stupidity. It’s easy to get caught up in my daily grind and ignore everyone and everything around me, but God’s been putting little reminders in my path lately to slow down and pay attention.
Taking the subway home from work the other night, a lady stopped me asking if I could help carry her suitcase down the steps. My first thought was, ‘I can’t miss my train,’ but I stopped myself and thought: ‘Screw the train, I gotta to help.’
We’re called to serve. The opposite of service is selfishness. Selfishness is evil. There’s no other way to put it. It’s a carnal inclination linked to our sin nature. And unfortunately, life tries to push us to the lower nature.
Work, school, projects, errands, smartphones and social media are part of the daily routine that keeps us focused on ourselves and distracted from the concerns of others. No doubt, we are busy. And there are plenty of problems in on our lives to focus on. But we’re commanded to give others priority over ourselves. It’s an insane concept, but since God said it, I figure it makes sense (He’s smarter than us after all).
It’s the way Jesus lived. Whether He was on His way to heal someone (Matt. 9:18-22), or grieving a personal loss (Matt. 14:10-14), He was always interrupted by someone in need. He never hesitated to break from His routine and put what He was doing on hold in order to serve. Sure, that’s a high standard. But if we pay attention to others and prepare ourselves to put aside our plans if needed, we can meet that standard more often than not.
Our lattes can wait.
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