Friday, January 16, 2009

How Do I Get Lost?

Probably my favorite summary of the teachings of Jesus Christ is said in the Savior's own words in St Matthew 10:39 (as well as a few other places), "He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it."

It's been years since I first heard or read those words and it is taking years to feel like I may be beginning to grasp what those words mean. When we first hear the idea of losing yourself to find yourself (or hear it the 100th time) we scratch our heads and say, "that sounds nice, but what does it mean?" "You have a much better chance of finding something if you're looking for it. Hello!" "How do I get lost to find ME?" "Heck, how do I get lost?"

There are a lot of self-help books out there that talk about the importance of finding yourself first. They teach that to be independent, make sure your needs are met first. You are the most important person in your life. Forget others; just think about what makes you happy. The happiness of others cannot happen until you are happy.

I don't buy it. Any of it. At least not anymore.

Anytime I've thought that way I've been miserable. Maybe not at first. In fact, at first I feel invigorated. I feel what I think is freedom. But really it ends up being captivation, because instead of inviting feelings of love and joy and fostering a mindset that leads to choices that matter, it slowly invites feelings of selfishness and greed. I think about me, and then after some time I learn that thinking about me is fun. It's like a drug. I just can't get enough. Wow, look at me. I'm awesome. Come here everyone and bask in my awesomeness and you can be happy too.

Tying to another teaching of Jesus Christ, I hear people quote, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind," and "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself," and (appropriately) saying that these are the two greatest commandments. But, they add, "You can't love your neighbor unless you love yourself first."

I used to agree with that way of thinking. But it never worked. At least not for me. I eventually had the same problem with that as the self-help books. They were the same way of thinking. If I tried to consciously love myself first, I really didn't have time to love my neighbor. I was way too interesting. Or sometimes I was way too worthless so there was no way I could love others.

So then back to the questions, how do I get lost? How do I lose myself? Is there any room for thinking about 'me' when losing myself?

I don't think there is.

I think of those I know that were or are selfless with their life and then I ultimately end up thinking about my Savior who I feel they emulated. Looking at my Savior's life I can find no record where He ever put his feelings first.

Think about the woman who was caught in the act of adultery. What if Christ's thinking was "I can help her but what if she goes and sins some more? She will just ignore the atonement I will be performing for her. That hurts. Never mind let them stone her. It'll hurt too much if she does sin again."

What if He thought that each time I repented?

Yet He doesn't think that way, and "his arm is stretched out still." Everyday He allows me to hurt Him, because He has found His life through losing it for me and you. He is not allowing selfish thoughts about His pain interfere and somehow because He isn’t allowing those thoughts He isn’t having them and He is happy and at peace and filled with more love than we can fathom.

I am happy when I lose myself and unhappy when I try to find myself first.

What do you think?


merrilykaroly said...

I agree. That was an interesting example about what He could have thought instead about the woman taken in adultery.

I think that it's also true that the more you serve and love others, the more you are able to love yourself because now you have someone decent to love-- now you have a good reason to respect yourself. (keeping humility in mind, of course)

But it's so hard not to constantly think about yourself... it's just human nature to be interested in what people think of you, in stories about you, in what people are saying about you...

Anonymous said...

I agree that this idea is a summary of the teachings of Jesus Christ. It seems to be a foundational idea, whether looking at how the Savior, himself, lived when upon the earth, or looking at the ordinance of baptism--to be born again.

I've heard it taught, too, that first you must love yourself before you can love your neighbor as yourself; whatever one thinks of that idea, it is obvious that it isn't what the original commandment has in mind. To put the word, "first," with "yourself," seems to turn things inside out (which is kind of what the original idea of losing one's self is, a turning from the selfishness of the natural worldly way, but now it gets turned back around and negated).

For me, this is all easier said than done. But I find that a little doing it right goes a long way. Through small means greater effects can be brought about. And I think that the Lord magnifies very small good effects into large ones as we try.

NoSurfGirl said...

I know that losing myself in the responsibility of caring for my daughter enabled me to survive the lameness of what happened to me:) So I think the idea has loads of merit.