Thursday, February 23, 2012

It's not 42: The ultimate answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything

I joked on Facebook on my birthday that, since I’m 42 this year, people might want to ask about what the ultimate answer is. I’d been scheming about saying that for a long time. What I didn’t realize is that I’d also been mulling over the answer itself this whole time as well.

I don’t remember exactly when my answer coalesced for me. I do know that I’ve looked at the world through this lens ever since and haven’t found a time when it wasn’t true. Sometimes there’s more to life these three things, but they’ve always proven true.

In mind these three things form a triangle, or the legs of a stool. Without one of them, the other two are true, but not as strong. And if two of them come quickly to me in a situation, I look for the third to be present as well. I’m not disappointed.

First of these three things is “It’s ALL about God.” And by that I don’t mean what I’ve usually heard – that God is the author of all things and we owe Him our praise. That is true. But for me it goes beyond that. In Ephesians 2:7 we read this: “that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” You may know Ephesians 2:8-9. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves…” Verse 7 tells us why He saved us – to bring glory to Himself. So really and truly there’s nothing in me or you at all that motivates God to redeem us or redeem the situation in which we find ourselves. It’s all to show off.

The short way I say this is “God shows up to show off.” So, while I am deeply grateful when I see God’s hand in my life, I know that it’s only to bring Him glory.

The second of the three things is from the AA Big Book. “Selfishness - Self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles.” (p. 62) Take a moment to think about it. When have you ever seen sin – someone doing something wrong – that can’t be traced back to selfishness or self-centeredness? When someone robs a house, murders someone, rapes someone – these are all essentially selfish acts. But they’re also pretty far removed from the average person.

When I sit on my butt and don’t get up and clean the house, it’s because I’m being selfish. Laziness puts my desires ahead of those I love.

When I lie about something – omit part of the truth or just not say something condemning when asked – selfishness is motivating me to protect myself at any cost. It robs me of the freedom honesty and forgiveness bring.

When I assume that my ideas are probably the best and certainly better than yours, my arrogance will hurt you or piss you off. That’s my self-centered behavior showing you that I think I’m the center of the universe.

And the third of the three things is Perspective. Rick is fond of saying that there are three sides to every story: my side, your side, and the truth. I see the world with my own set of biases and that colors how I remember an event or report it to you. You do the same. So does every person.

If I really understand what you’ve been through – your pain, your joy, the events that have defined who you are – then I will treat you differently. The quote I had on my email for a very long time is “Be kinder than necessary for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.” I find this idea most necessary to keep in mind when someone is bugging the heck out of me.

And another piece of perspective that I’ve really come to believe is this: without a commitment to follow Christ, there’s absolutely no reason for a person to live an unselfish life. So why in the world do I expect them to live like they are? This is the one, clear, indisputable way to show that I’m a Christ follower – to seek to live for and because of Him not me.

So how much of finding these things in my life is because I’m looking? How much is because they’ve been there all along and I’ve not seen them? Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “People only see what they are prepared to see.” So maybe that’s why I see them everywhere. But seeing them has changed my life – my perspective, in fact.

I challenge you to try on this answer for a few days and see what happens to you. What changes in your heart and mind? I’d love to talk about it. Let’s refine this thought together.

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