Monday, November 24, 2008

Not for Me, O Lord

If you've ever worked in marketing, you've probably heard the wise advice, "It isn't features that do the selling; it's benefits." Benefits to the potential customer, that is. People don't make purchasing decisions because of how many awards a business has won, or how the moving parts in a lawn mower function together, or how many sizes an inflatable swimming pool comes in. They decide what brand to buy--or whether they need something like this at all--on the basis of whether it meets their wants and needs. There are still plenty of businesspeople who haven't learned this, if the advertisements we get in the mail and see on the Web are any indication.

And there are plenty of people in everyday life who suffer from the same delusion that the world is eager to hear them brag about themselves. Yet one thing nearly everyone agrees on is that there is no greater bore than a conceited person. As classic human relations expert Dale Carnegie put it: "I know and you know people who blunder through life trying to badger other people into becoming interested in them. Of course, it doesn't work. People are not interested in you. They are not interested in me. They are interested in themselves--morning, noon, and after dinner."

Carnegie put his finger on a major irony there: the primary reason we find braggarts so boring is that we're pretty conceited ourselves. While the egotist is shooting off his mouth, we're thinking, "Look, buddy, don't you know I'm at least as important as you?!" And we, who condemn others for talking too much about themselves, do the same thing whenever we get the chance. For the vast majority of humanity, "I," "me," and "mine" are the most common words in everyday vocabulary.

Psalm 115:1 (NIV) says, "Not to us, O LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness." But many of us want to accept God's "love and faithfulness" while keeping the "glory"--and the control over our lives and destinies--for ourselves. Many people even have an overall attitude toward religion that adds up to, "If God really loved me, He'd always give me what I want." Like children who say the same thing when their parents deny outrageous requests, we attempt to set ourselves up as higher authorities than Someone Who is unquestionably wiser and more experienced. That attitude has been causing problems for humanity ever since Eve fell for the "you can have more--you can be as great as God" line.

And since every one of us is born with that same attitude effectively programmed into the psyche, it takes a lot of maturing before we can honestly say to God, "Not my will but Yours be done. I know You will do what is best for me, however opposite it seems to what I want at the moment."

Most of the world has instead fallen for the idea that to be fulfilled, we have to focus our lives on what we want--notwithstanding the large numbers of people who can testify that constantly thinking about oneself is a quick route to misery.

True happiness is loving God above all else.

Not for me, O Lord,
Not for any earthly pleasure,
May I seek Your Kingdom's treasure;
Make my will Your own;
Drive out all that seeks to hinder
Me from total, pure surrender;
Make my wish, alone,
To become Your loving servant,
Ever passionate and fervent:
Cut each earthly cord.

Not for me, O Lord:
All my longings may prove tainted,
For my heart is ill-acquainted
With its own dark depths;
I but faintly see--forgive me!--
The true blessings You would give me;
Faltering are my steps:
Make my one desire Your glory,
My one goal to spread Your story,
You alone adored.

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