Back in July, I visited my friend, Jane, in Atlanta and after some really big hugs, I believe some of the first words out of my mouth were, “I had no idea what a butt head I was until I got married.” (Except I didn’t exactly use the words “butt head”, but you get the point.) See, before I met Tim, I thought I was generally ok with myself as a person. I mean, I knew had flaws and things I wanted to change or improve, but if asked to give myself a grade, I probably would have given myself a B+. (Hey, for some of us that was an AMAZING grade in high school.) I would have described myself as pro-others, but really I was just pro-Lindsey.
Since our wedding day, I am reminded on a daily basis that I am generally pretty selfish. This has become even more clear in the wake of Hurricane Irma. In the span of a few days, millions have lost power, thousands have been displaced, and it will take weeks or more to repair all of the damage left from the storm. While the bulk of my fear and anxiety during the storm was genuinely about those who had no where to go, my response since the storm has been nothing short of selfish. No stores are open? How am I going to make dinner?! Walgreens isn’t open? Where am I going to get more Dr. Teall’s?! The Post Offices are closed? When am I going to receive my paycheck?!
Me. Me. Me. Me. I. I. I. I. Mine. Mine. Mine. I should have auditioned for the role of one those obnoxiously loud seagulls in Finding Nemo because I would have crushed it. And the more I look around me, it isn’t just me either. I have stopped breathing out of shear panic at least twice just trying to navigate traffic since many of the stop lights are out around town. Apparently no one else had Mr. Pitner from Pitner’s Driving School pound into their heads that a flashing red light or broken stoplight is to be treated like a four-way-stop. I was nearly run over twice in two different parking lots by people driving at least 40 miles an hour. In parking lots. I have been stepped on and kicked in the store by people who refuse to look up from their phones. I have stepped on people because I refused to look up from my phone.
We want what we want, when we want it, NOW. And it is KILLING US. It is killing me. If I am not careful, my selfishness is going to crush someone – it is just a matter of whether it is me or others with me. As kind as my husband is, a turn of the lip or a slant of the eye tells me when I have just said or done something incredibly selfish and void of kindness. He is gracious and patient with my steep learning curve, but the evidence is still there and to be honest, I don’t always like having that mirror there to remind me when I am being less-than loving.
In an effort to challenge my selfish ways, I have been re-re-reading Brennan Manning books. If you are not familiar with Brennan, please introduce yourself to him soon through Abba’s Child or The Ragamuffin Gospel. You may not enjoy it at first, but you won’t regret your time with him. Brennan Manning was a man who never “got it right”. He died of the alcoholism that enslaved him for most of his life, yet he is one of the most profound writers on Jesus and Jesus’ love that has ever walked this earth. Brennan doesn’t talk pretty; he tells the truth.
With no formal permission, I share the following excerpt from his book The Ragamuffin Gospel, knowing that I need to read it at least 50 more times before I understand what it means for my own selfishness:
The way we are with each other is the truest test of our faith. How I treat my brother or sister from day to day, how I react to the sin-scarred wino on the street, how I respond to interruptions from people I dislike, how I deal with normal people in their normal confusion on a normal day may be a better indication of my reverence for life than the antiabortion sticker on the bumper of my car.
We are not pro-life simply because we are warding off death. We are pro-life to the extent that we are men and women for others, all others; to the extent that no human flesh is a stranger to us; to the extent that we can touch the hand of another in love; to the extent that for us there are no ‘others’.
Today the danger of the pro-life position which I vigorously support is that it can be frighteningly selective. The rights of the unborn and the dignity of the age-worn are pieces of the same pro-life fabric. We weep at the unjustified destruction of the unborn. Did we also weep when the evening news reported from Arkansas that a black family had been shot-gunned out of a white neighborhood?
One morning I experienced a horrifying hour. I tried to remember how often between 1941 and 1988 I wept for a German or Japanese, a North Korean or a North Vietnamese, a Sandinista or Cuban. I could not remember one. Then I wept, not for them, but for myself.
I can’t tell you how many times I have failed to weep for my brother and sister who are suffering. I am incredibly quick, however, to weep for my own discomfort. In honor of Mr. Manning, and in repentance of my own selfishness, I challenge and encourage myself to be more pro-life in regards to every single living person I encounter. My hope is that I see them for who they are, not what they have or have not done to inconvenience me. I long to be pro-every-life. I ache for a day when we don’t see each other as objects to be tolerated but as people to be loved, enjoyed, and understood as beautifully and wonderfully different as we are. I pray that, through all of my relationships, I am refined and pumiced into a woman who loves deeply and forgives with abandon. I pray this for us all.