Lose Yourself

“The purpose of life is not to find yourself.  It’s to lose yourself.”  With these words David Books concludes his column bemoaning the advice dispensed at so many of this year’s commencement speeches – “find yourself, find your passion and then pursue your dreams.” Books’ lament is based on a certain reality.  After all, in what world is a young adult mature enough to know who they are? Isn’t life a journey of discovery? To assume that the journey towards self-understanding is over at 21 is naïve at best.  I am 46 and still trying to find myself.  I have developed an inkling of what my passions might be.  As for perusing my dreams, I am still dreaming new dreams!

So, what does it mean to lose yourself?  According to Eminem losing one’s self has something to do with the music. I have two teens and they have developed an uncanny ability to lose themselves in the music.  But I do not think that this is what Brooks was referring to.

Jesus talked about losing life in order to find life.

Could it be that Jesus understood what many of this year’s commencement speakers failed to fully grasp?  Meaning and purpose come when we turn our focus outward.

Servant-hood, discipleship and following Jesus are inextricably linked.  The Kingdom of God has often been described as an upside down kingdom.  Everything gets reversed - purpose, passion and meaning come when service towards others becomes a first priority.

A more helpful commencement speech might better be framed with these words:

Graduates, before you today there is a fork in the road.  One fork will ask you to find yourself, ignite your passions and follow your dreams.  The temptation will be to choose this path, but know that this road ultimately leads to a type of self-centered hell.  The other fork will ask you to ignore yourself focus on the needs and concerns around you.  The cost will seem high but the payoff will be meaning, purpose and life.

The choice is yours.

Heaven on earth

I like the Christmas season. It is a time of year that brings out the best in humanity. The ideas of peace on earth and good will to all become real possibilities.

Later this week our family will go and see a stage production of “A Christmas Carol.” This is quickly becoming a favorite Balzer family tradition. The evening has become an entire event, we dress-up, go out to eat (read – eat at a restaurant with linen napkins), and then head over to the theater.

A Christmas Carol is a powerful story. If a grumpy self-centered man like Scrooge can change and embody the Christmas spirit, then change has to be possible for the rest of us. Have you ever met an endearing self-centered person? I suspect that it just isn’t possible.

At every level self-centeredness stinks.

This might be why Jesus called his followers to deny themselves. Something powerful happens when we choose not to think of ourselves first.

C.S. Lewis, in his essay, “The Great Divorce,” tells the story of a bus ride from hell to the plains of heaven. Everyone on the bus is given the opportunity to enter heaven, if they choose. Most choose to return to hell. The excuses are varied; the theme of self-centeredness runs through every excuse.

If your world is only about you and your concerns, hell on earth is possible.

When we deny ourselves and think of the needs of others before our own needs, heaven on earth is possible.

What kind of Christmas are you looking forward to?