One of my favorite college courses was Child Growth and Development. In class it was mostly theory. Now as the grandfather of nine grandchildren (eight boys, the oldest of whom just turned nine), I’m observing anew the stages kids go through.
Personalities begin to be revealed in the earliest years. When presents are given at birthdays or Christmas, a one-year old seems more interested in the box and wrappings than the contents. At two, “Mine!” is voiced as hands grab for whatever a sibling or cousin is holding.
We breathe a sigh of relief when children mature to the point of willingness to share. And we rejoice when a spirit of compassion and generosity surfaces. There is hope! we think.
In truth, we never outgrow self-centeredness. (Whose image do we first look for in a group photo?)
By God’s grace, love for others can overpower narcissism. We are drawn to those who are “other-centered.” We want to be those who “consider others better than ourselves” (Philippians 2:3). And we may be enabled to sacrifice for the good of others – even to the point of willingness to “lay down our life for a friend” (John 15:13).
But even seeking to please others more than self has its pitfalls. We have hidden motives. Too easily we can manipulate – or be manipulated. Our actions may displease some while pleasing others. (Aesop’s “The Man, the Boy, and the Donkey” comes to mind.)
Is there a better way to navigate life beyond pleasing self or others?
“What does God want?” has proven to be one of the most clarifying approaches to life (and LIFE) imaginable. In fact, “Pleasing the Audience of One” is the first of Life in Messiah’s “Culture Statements.”
A train track has two rails. When a locomotive’s wheels are properly aligned with the track, the train’s direction is established.
When seeking direction in life, I have found two questions which correspond to the train rails:
“Lord, what is Your desire?” What will bring delight to God’s heart, an approving smile to His face?
“Lord, how can I most glorify You?” Of all the options available to me, which is most likely to result in God’s greatest glory?
Asking those questions typically doesn’t bring an immediate answer. Rather, they focus my thinking on what is of vital importance as I consider the factors to be weighed in the decision.
There may be merit in assessing the “pluses and minuses” of the choices before me. But my perceptions of reality are limited at best, and even the factors I’m weighing may change. How often do we hear, “I didn’t see that coming!”
“The law of unintended consequences” reminds us that, indeed, decisions do have consequences. But when I have sought the Lord’s guidance and to the best of my abilities followed the Spirit’s promptings, I find great freedom. I don’t have to worry about what others may think of my actions; if the Lord is well pleased I’m in a great place.
“The consequences of obedience” may bring great difficulties. (Think of Joseph resisting the overtures of his boss’ wife, or John the Baptist’s speaking truth to power. Both were imprisoned – and John lost his life.) But even when hardship or sorrow results from following the Lord, it is not accompanied by regret.
Conversely, “the consequences of disobedience” may at first seem sweet. The “pleasures of sin” are real – but only for a season (Hebrews 11:24-26). One of the saddest verses of Scripture is “So He gave them their request, but sent a wasting disease among them” (Psalm 106:15).
What decisions are you facing? What factors are you weighing? What questions are you asking?
What do I want?
What would please others?
Lord, what do You desire?
and “How can I most glorify You?”
Pleasing the Audience of One is more than a slogan for us. It’s a great way to do life (and LIFE!).