Ever found that the more familiar you are with something, the less likely you are to notice it? Like the earth turning each day to catch the first bright rays of the sun. Or the liquidy feel of water as it rolls over your tongue. Or the shifting swoosh of sound that fills our days – from morning bird songs to the evening breeze?
That’s how I felt this week, sitting down to read ancient words that I’d likely read a hundred times before. “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves,” Philippians 2:3 (ESV). What? I paused and read the words again. Were other people really more important than me?
I wish I were kidding. But those were the honest-to-goodness words that landed like a lightning bolt to my brain. Because the truth is that while I often put other’s needs before my own (few mothers don’t), I often act as if my needs are still the most important, as if I’m the most important.
As I pondered these words, my earth tilted just enough on its axis to catch the first bright rays of the sun, and I noticed some of the ways in which I act more important than the people around me. Planning my family’s schedule around my work. Insisting that certain jobs around the house get done when and how I prefer. Not always appreciating the contributions of those around me. And generally acting like a real grump when things don’t go my way.
How long had I been this way? Like my first taste of water or when I heard my first bird song, I can’t say. Self-centeredness is as familiar to me as my own name. Maybe that’s why when we who overcome stand before God in heaven, he promises to give us a new one (Revelations 2:17).
Yet, the remedy to overcome my selfish acts we printed plainly on the page in the verses that followed. “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 2:4-5).
What mind is that? The mind of one who gave up his rights. The mind of one who humbled himself. The mind of one who came to serve. Not an easy task.
Sorting through coupons and odd bits of paper in my purse last week, I came across a note on which I’d scribbled words spoken my husband’s grandmother, Josephine. “Try to keep a right mind,” she’d said, sitting in her parlor one day with the drapes drawn while discussing something that had upset her. “That’s what I try to do.”
She lived to be 100. Clearly her words are worth weighing. In a world where most people want to be first, maybe we should start each day by asking God to help us notice and meet the needs of those around us.
Meadow Rue Merrill, author of the memoir, Redeeming Ruth, writes from a little house in the big woods of Midcoast Maine. She is also the author of the fall-themed children’s picture book The Lantern Hill Light Parade and four other books celebrating the holidays with activities that build children’s faith. Connect at www.meadowrue.com