A Selfless Advent
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, my wife and I traveled on several flights and as many of you know, this provides sufficient time for reflection, rest...and people watching.
More often than not, I get really excited about flying. I understand why people don’t like it, but I’m pretty content to sit and read or watch movies for a few hours, unreachable to the rest of the world. However...on the rare occasion I’m flying around a holiday like I did last week, I would probably find myself in agreement with most everyone - it’s miserable.
Our spatial liberties are traded in for the (hoped for) convenience of arriving somewhere faster. But it’s almost as if subconsciously, as soon as the door closes, we adjust to our world tightening in...everything shifts to being smaller...more individualized...how many places in life do we have someone wheel our dinner up to us and serve it with whatever drink we ask for?
And in this altered norm, I think something interesting happens - we revert to our most basic concern which is solely for ourselves and our own happiness. Planes allow us to be really selfish.
I have a handful of stories, even from just a few legs of our journey last week, that illustrate how terrible other people on our flight were...but that’s too easy. I was more surprised by the small things that bothered me - my seat wouldn’t recline properly...the sound stopped working on my movie...the kid next to me coughed incessantly for 6 hours straight….
Being bothered by these things isn’t the problem - I’m human after all (and her cough was really hard to sit near…) The problem comes with how quickly I revert to thinking about myself, and how unaware I am of this happening unless I’m in an obvious place like being stuck in an airplane.
How many days do I wake up in my apartment and start my day with one thing in mind: how am I going to make ME happy today?
How often do I react in traffic to being cut off: how dare you not respect me?
The plane made it more obvious because what else am I going to do for a few hours but complain silently? But every day I live in small (and some bigger) ways, so self-consumed and unchallenging of this focus that it is a wonder I have any friends at all!
Dostoevsky wrote in his novel The Brothers Karamazov: “The world says: "You have needs -- satisfy them. You have as much right as the rich and the mighty. Don't hesitate to satisfy your needs; indeed, expand your needs and demand more." This is the worldly doctrine of today. And they believe that this is freedom. The result for the rich is isolation and suicide, for the poor, envy and murder.”
We indulge our every ‘need’ as if it is our right...and by this, we find ourselves chained to isolation, envy, and misery.
As we begin this season of Advent, one thing we have the opportunity to do is challenge the daily focus we place on ourselves. But it’s more than just focusing on the story of Jesus’ birth - it’s the embodiment of Christ’s spirit, the spirit of humility and servanthood that Paul so beautifully describes in Philippians 2.
May we challenge the selfishness in our own hearts this season as we celebrate the coming of a generous savior who calls us to follow in his humility and grace.