Sunday, April 27, 2014

“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” ― John Bunyan

For the first forty years of my life, I never did anything to help anyone other than myself.  I would even lie or hurt others in order to get what I wanted.  When I started going back to church (at my wife’s insistence) in the early 80’s, I realized I needed to change my behavior, so I looked for things I could do to help other people.  I was new to this, so if I stopped and helped someone change a tire, I was so proud of myself, I would tell everyone, the greeter at Wal-Mart, the waitress at IHOP, well, you get the idea.  What I discovered was that the more I did favors for others and helped out even when it was inconvenient for me or even cost me money—it made me feel good.  If I could physically do it, I did every favor ever asked of me.  I looked for ways to help others because I liked the way it made me feel.  I didn’t need anyone to even say thank you, it felt that good.  I don’t know exactly when the change occurred, but at some point several years later, I didn’t even remember when I helped someone.  This was brought home to me when I received a hand-written, very effusive thank-you note, and I could not remember what it was I had done that prompted the thank-you note.  John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, had a crisis of faith early in his career.  He asked a Moravian friend how could he preach faith when he, himself, had none.  The Moravian told him to preach faith until he had it and then to preach it because he had it.  Turning my life from self-centered to other-centered was much like that.  I had to force myself to do it and seek praise for it until one day I realized that it was just who I was.  I had become like my father and my wife’s father.  I cared about other people more than I cared about myself.  I don’t give advice because if it works, I get the credit, and if it fails, I get the blame, but I will tell you this--if you want to follow the example of Christ Jesus and devote your life to others, you just have to start doing good—even if it is forced and not part of who you are.  You do enough of it, and, one day, you may hear these words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”  That’s what I live for.
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