Continued from here.
As my relationship with God has matured, I have become infinitely more aware of my sin and self-centeredness. When my relationship with God was immature, I believed I was an overall “good person,” almost to the point of martyrdom. I was quite the hero in my own head, having survived severe child abuse and broken the cycle for my son. I had done a lot of “good things,” such as serving on the Board of Directors for two nonprofits that provided support for adult survivors of child abuse. I was active in volunteer work and successful in my job. I was leading Bible studies through my church. I thought I was a really “good person” who was making a difference.
As my relationship with God has deepened, I have become painfully aware that my “goodness” and “righteous acts” are just filthy rags motivated by selfishness. Not a drop of goodness exists inside of me apart from God. While from the outside, I might appear to be a good person, my motivation for those “righteous acts” was frequently self-centeredness. For example, I might do something nice for another person, which looked godly from the outside. However, my heart was far from God because I had an agenda. I would make sacrifices for other people as a way to manipulate them into liking me so they wouldn’t leave. I believed I was fundamentally unlovable, but if I did enough “righteous acts” for someone else, perhaps the person would stay in my life despite my brokenness. Ultimately, I would burn myself out, and then the other person would leave as I stopped being useful, which reinforced my belief that I was fundamentally unlovable.
Today, because of my deep relationship with a holy God, I am keenly aware of my tendency toward selfishness, not only in my actions but also in my thoughts. However, I am also much more deeply aware of God’s grace. He loves me despite my natural selfishness. Because of His unfailing love, I choose to let go of my own agenda and, instead, ask what I can do for God and how. This results in God leading me to do righteous acts for others, but the motivation is very different. Instead of doing something kind to manipulate someone into liking me, I am extending kindness out of the overflow of the love that God has poured into me. The reaction of the other person does not matter because the motivation behind the extended kindness is my love for God. I am seeking nothing from the other person. If I receive kindness in return, that’s simply icing on the cake.
[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace playing cymbals and yelling,” Pay attention to me!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]