Thursday, December 8, 2011

Bloodless Martyrdom

Over the summer I realized that as a single man in my mid 20's I am presented with a conflicting set of agendas for my life. One popular opinion is that I need to take full advantage of my singleness. Travel, pursue goals, go back to school. Figure out what I want out of life.  These are not bad things. They are great things. These may even help me to reach my life goals of marrying a godly woman and having a family of my own.

However, I'm also told that getting married and having a family will reveal to me and others the depths of my selfishness and pride. I could wait until that possible day to discover those elements in my heart but I was a Boy Scout and our motto was "Be Prepared". The hope then is that I rid myself of as much of my egocentrism as I can and to live for others now. Where I see the problem is that the life I'm being told to live now is not helping cultivate the life that I seek to flourish in later.

I set before me the same challenges that Christ presented His disciples. Pick up your cross and follow me. Die to self.

One way in which I sought to grow the virtue of selflessness was to volunteer. I had done a lot of this at my church but because I also work there the line felt too blurred. I wanted to be stretched. Careful what you ask for.

Thanks to a friend of mine I found out about an opportunity to serve an organization called Giving Children Hope, located in Buena Park, CA. This NPO sends unused medical supplies around the U.S. and world to locals that are in need. They also fill backpacks for homeless children in the L.A. and Orange counties. 

You hear people say all the time that volunteering feels good. I wish I could say that I naturally felt this euphoria, especially as a christian. But I'm selfish, and volunteering 4 hours of my day off, getting up earlier than I do for work and doing unglamorous hard labor in a warehouse did not illuminate my halo. Another false idea I had was that I'd be with very friendly, selfless people who loved serving. In reality many of the men I was working next to were court ordered to be there and talked about how much they didn't want to be there.

After a couple of months volunteering once a week, I arrived at GCH to find just myself and one other guy. The warehouse manager, a former street fighting Romanian, told us were were going to be doing some cleaning. We moved large, heavy tables, cleaned up trash, swept, mopped and waxed the floor. It was quite the operation.

It was while I was crouched down scrubbing a wall with a sponge that I really felt all my resentment bubbling up.
"Why am I doing this? There are so many better things I could be doing. This work is for people being punished. This is beneath me. I have more to offer than scrubbing walls and mopping floors."
 The thoughts tasted bitter. "So that's the real me." It made me sick. Then I heard my answers. Not easy but true. "This is why you need this. This is when it really begins."

If it had all been easy and fun what would I be gaining? That wasn't my goal, though inwardly it's what I wanted. My own glory. Picking up crosses and dying clashes with my self preservation and entitlement.

I am convinced now, more than ever, that the path to my goal of selflessness will not end before my heart does. But I look to Christ who daily set the example and lived a life of obedience and love for God and for others. May that be the prayer on my lips every morning and the reflections of my heart at night.


  1. That is a really interesting take on the whole "take advantage of being single while you can" thing. I think you have a really good point - our goal should be to move away from egocentrism no matter what the path we take.

    As a note of encouragement - and you know this already - you are from the only one who struggles with resentment when forced to act against selfishness. And I think you are right on - even if our attitude is poor, I like to think that as long as we can still exercise the discipline to crouch down on the floor with that sponge, character is still being formed. I hope so, anyways. Haha. :)

    1. I just now saw this comment. Thank you for your feedback. It really is encouraging to know that I'm not the only one who doesn't volunteer with a halo about my head. :)

  2. roots of selfishness...perhaps. i also see a heart inclined toward God. glad to call you my brother, o Work in Progress.