“You First”–When You’re the Problem

Isn’t life so much better when you can absolve all your own sins and criticize another’s? Like when a Mexican drug lord slaughters an entire family, or a greedy CEO embezzles millions, or when a stranger on Twitter throws out a racial slur that could curdle milk.

You’re so far removed from the offense that you can point a finger and call out the evil from the comfort of your own couch. It’s convenient, and even uplifting.

But what about the other nine times out of ten?

Life is far too messy for any of us to point our fingers and not stick them in something foul. I think that’s why Jesus said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1). Often times, the accuser is just as guilty as the defendant.

However, as this post implies, I can’t condemn you, dear readers, without first condemning myself.

It’s not you, it’s me…

Writing is hard. I’m not just talking about the hours on a keyboard, the countless revisions, deadlines, or the stress-induced rage when you find a typo in your published work (darn, darn, darny-darn darn!). I’m talking about trying to find an audience.

Lately, that’s been a constant frustration for me. It seems that I write and nobody reads, sometimes on this site, sometimes in other areas. It hurts–which is fair. And it ticks me off–which is not.

We all want to be seen and heard. Being invisible, incorporeal, is like having a weight tied to your soul, tugging at it, ripping the roots from your body, pulling it towards oblivion, where you finally give up and subscribe to the mechanical, surface-level existence of “acceptable.”

And at some point in that journey downward, you hit anger.

When my blog posts went unnoticed, when my Kickstarter received minimal support, when I interacted with people about my writing, frustration built, and then rage.

“What is wrong with the world?” I fumed. “Why do people say ‘Good job, you can do it’ from a thousand miles away? Why does no one want to get involved, believe in me, read what I’ve written? Why does no one care about this crucial aspect of my life? Why does everyone pass that bill to someone else? Why do people care about superficial matters, but not for the soul?”

Then, through my wife, the nudging of the Holy Spirit, and the sermon last Sunday, God spoke some things to me which could be summed up in two words:

“You first.”

When I look into the mirror–God’s mirror, not the twisted, funhouse contraption I keep next to my ego–I don’t like what I see.

I see a man distracted. I can’t sit through a whole conversation because I’ve already taken one piece of what they said and run off into la-la land with it. Or I’m thinking about my own opinions or what I’m going to say next.

I see a man disinterested. I can hardly play with my son or talk to my wife because I value amusement more than people. I’d rather be entertained and enticed than invested. You must fight for my interest because I’m not going to just give it to you. After all, who are you? Can you offer me something valuable?

I see a man self-serving. I’d rather be comfortable, and that means staying on the surface of things. Seeing a problem I can’t fix, a person who irks me, a need for effort and struggle, repulses me. After all, what’s my return on investment? Who’s to say this person who requires so my from me can ever repay that debt?

I see a man–no, I see a child who sits in the sandbox, hoarding his toys, saying “I won’t give anything I have to anyone else until someone first gives something to me.”

Twisted logic…

I’ve made plenty of excuses (I’m an introvert, I’m introspective, I’ve been hurt before), but the truest that I’ve made is “How can I give what I don’t have?”

The answer is simple: “Go get it.”

In my life, people have failed me. That has made me cynical towards people in general, but also desperate for their approval. This is a cyclical sin, ever seeking approval of man, never getting it, becoming more desperate for it, ever more frustrated when you don’t get it.

But the thing I’m supposed to give to others I’m supposed to get from God, not man. How else can you put something to the world? If you take something from the world and give it back, what’s changed? If you take it from God, who it outside the world, and give it to someone else, you’ve just added something. Basic math, really.

So what now?

God’s been convicting me to think less of myself and yet more. If I want true joy, I need to get it from God, who not only reads my words, but helps me write them. And if I want attention, affection, interest, and investment, I must first give it to someone else.

“…whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them…” (Matthew 7:12, NKJV)

“Give, and it will be given to you…” (Luke 6:38, NKJV)

“Freely you receive, freely give.” (Matthew 8:10b, NKJV)

That last one is the most intriguing at this point. As I’ve whined, you can’t give what you don’t have. But God gives generously (Matthew 7: 7-11).

So what have I received? Among countless things, interest, grace, and patience. God certainly took an interest in me, enough to die on a cross. To say that inconvenienced him would be an understatement. But in that death was grace when I don’t respond to him like I should, and patience to deal with me time and time again.

Therefore, as I’ve received it freely, I should give it freely, not waiting for someone who can repay me, but giving it as a gift. It’s going to be a hard struggle. As I said, I’m stuck in my own head–often for legitimate reasons. But this is an obstacle, not an excuse. If I want it, I must give it–sincerely. God, grant me the grace to do just that.

But what about you, dear reader? 

Yes, this is a gut-wrenchingly honest post, but I also hope it’s an inspiring one. We often accuse people of being mean, thoughtless, and cruel, but what of ourselves?

Ask yourself this: “What do I want most from [insert a person or persons here]?” Then ask, “Have I given it to them first?” If you don’t think you can do that, then ask one more question: “Have I received it yet?”

May you receive it, give it, and cherish its coming and going. God bless.

 

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6 thoughts on ““You First”–When You’re the Problem

  1. good job….sure wish I could’ve heard that sermon last week. Bet it had stuff I need to hear. This did make me think- in the process of thinking about what YOU need to give/ get about all the times lately that I’ve whined about ‘but they just don’t understand how hard it is….” Which led me to trying to extrapolate what you are saying and apply it to me/ my situation *big sigh.
    whether its trying to successfully launch a small line or taking care of my elderly mom….our stuff can be hard and it can be hard to hear Him even when you’re seeking direction/ answers. Sometimes I’m convinced it can amount to what feels like stumbling around not quite getting the right answer in total- at least for me- and being thankful that I still have the grace to make repeated attempts at the same thing. Sometimes it seems to me that its just having the tenacity to keep on trying until you get it- cuz its a steep learning curve and sometimes it seems like I just didn’t want to hear what HE said and He lets me keep trying until I go back for further direction- sometimes willing at last to hear “no”
    Keep on working towards your dream- if He led you there He has answers

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    1. Thanks for that. Yeah, perseverance is a fruit of the spirit, too, which means it’s something God can give. We really have to go to him for everything, which is a little too much humble pie to chew sometimes.

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  2. I read all of your blog posts (not all of the movie-related ones, they’re good, I’m just not much of a movie person 😉 ). Thanks so much for writing this all out. I’m not in the same spot exactly, but there are a lot of things to take away from this post for me to spend some time in prayer and introspect about. Thanks for writing as often as you do and making that writing publicly available. It’s funny, so often I find myself seeing your writing and thinking “bingo! That’s what I’ve been trying to say but can’t english well enough to say it!”. Your words inspire me frequently and I get excited every time I see a new post notification pop up in my inbox.

    We frequent the Denver area (living in St. Charles Count, MO now) – maybe we can catch up and grab a coffee next time we’re out there. 🙂

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    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Chase, that means a ton. How funny that you’re in St. Charles County, MO now when I just moved from there in March. What part? I was in Wentzville/Lake St. Louis. And I’d be happy to meet you whenever you’re in Denver.

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      1. ha – I’m in LSL. 🙂

        We had chatted some via comments before you left to head to Denver, but can’t recall where we left off. I actually grew up in Longmont, north of Denver. If you get a chance and enjoy a killer sub sandwich, check out Subworks in Longmont – it’s worth the ~45 min drive and sammiches are affordable!

        Feel free to reach out to me too whenever you need some encouragement – we all need that more than we realize sometimes. If your writing is any indication of how you think on a day-to-day basis, it’s ominously insane how like-minded we are. I’m on the music side of the creative spectrum, and if you have any sort of disdain for the current state of music, then you can see to how I struggle. 0_o

        Kind of a bummer we couldn’t hook up while you were here, but yeah, life and stuff. 🙂

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