Monday, 5 April 2010

Desire a purpose greater than 'SELF'.

This is my pastor and his wife...amazing 'God' people!

“I have been a selfish being all my life, in practice, though not in principle.” Jane Austen
It is fair to say that most of us can identify with Jane Austen’s quotation on selfishness. We do not deliberately rise each day scheming about how we are going to gain our own advantage over that of another and make the world spin in the direction we so choose, but we are often negligent of others in pursuit of our own happiness and comfort. 

To be SELFISH is to be; devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one's own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others. This is characterized by or exemplified by the manifesting concern or care only for oneself: ‘selfish motives’. [].

The reality is that most of us are, “in principle” very caring and very much concerned about our fellow man. We all get moved by visual depictions of starving children in Africa, we all disagree with senseless wars and destructive behavior and we all care (to some extent) about the inheritance we will leave for the next generation (environment) so it’s not really ‘all about me!’ is it? If we consider the description of what it actually means to be selfish (above) we will quickly see a mirror to our own actions and often motives. Mankind is innately selfish by nature, dare I say that seeking your own needs above all is like breathing or eating, we do it because we believe that we must if we are to get ahead or survive (the ‘who will take care or look out for me syndrome’.  

 “Human history is the sad result of each one looking out for himself.Julio Cortazar
As sad as it is to admit, Cortazar was spot on when he made this statement, we need only consider Napoleon, Shaka Zulu, Hitler, The British Empire in colonization mode, America’s war on Iraq; the list could go on and on but the one pattern we see in all these different events and leaders is that they all began their campaigns from the position of ‘me or we’ need to do… in order to secure…for ‘me, us’ and so on. It is a sad state of affairs when the world we live in is reduced to a play ground fight over who gets to play on the swing first! Ironically, the selfishness displayed in a park or playground by 2,3,4, and 5 year olds is the same selfishness that remains in us until  we become adults and likewise motivated, we wage war, break hearts, steal, destroy, lie, cheat for the exact same reason,  one child pushes another child off a swing and into the dirt with a grazed knee…

In all this selfishness and generally dire state of affairs there is hope… Unsung heroes and heroines who live a live not unto themselves but for others. Ready and willing to sacrifice self for another’s benefit if the need arises… This takes me back to my childhood when my parents would make us go with them on their crusades to serve and help those less fortunate and in need. I remember many a Christmas season of taking old clothes and food to children who lived on the streets of Harare, planting trees in Orphanages where a playground hand me constructed for the children and on and on. As a child I thought my parents were nuts! Instead of buying us new toys they would give to the poor and make us help! Year after year attending various Rotary meetings, fundraising dinners and visiting projects, it drove me crazy then because I found it boring (no I am not exempt from selfishness) but as I grew up I realised that my initial thoughts were not always so instinctively about myself and often I would leave myself in a fix if it meant I could help someone in need which gives me hope that selfishness, though a natural element of mankind can be trained out of the heart… I started to ponder on this yesterday as I witnessed something entirely extraordinary and amazingly selfless! A lady who came to my church last September and gave her life to Jesus and subsequently moved away last November (though kept in touch) fell into some difficult times that meant she was unable to look after her daughter. Out of the blue she called my pastor and his wife last week and said that she needed help looking after her daughter as she could not for the time being and they said yes and took her daughter into their family home that very day.

What I have not told you is that the little girl is four and a half months old and that my pastor and his wife have three of their five children living at home with them (two under ten) and they are expecting another baby in about 7 weeks! So you can imagine this was not as simple as having another self sufficient child in the house able to play with the other children and feed and dress herself and go to sleep at bedtime and stay asleep through the night, she is tiny and needs love and constant attention and wakes up in the middle of the night and does all the things that a baby does.  Their willingness to take on such an enormous responsibility even for a short time at this late stage in pregnancy and with a growing church to minister to and all that family life entails…this proves beyond all measure that selfishness is a choice not a condition afflicted upon us! I am sure as they said yes their hearts sank momentarily at the thought of the extra work involved in caring for a child so young…yet with open arms and a genuine desire to have her (all you need to do is see them play with her and cuddle her and talk to her to see the love they have already extended to this little baby in just four short days of having her) they took her in and care for her as if she were their own…the difference in my parents’ lives and indeed my pastor and his wife’s lives is the presence of Jesus, inspiring and challenging them to live beyond themselves, the driving force behind all of their selfless actions.

Selfishness is most certainly a choice…and Jesus, the best example and teacher of how we can make the choice of SELFLESNESS and still be fulfilled and happy! 


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