Last month I spent an evening with my family at the Oregon State Fair – the pentacle of summer-time entertainment for the city of Salem.
There I was – walking the promenade with my beautiful wife of nine years, my three and a half year old son, and my six month old daughter – so much to do and so much of Oregon ’s goodness to enjoy.
I have gone to the Oregon State Fair every year since I can remember and it may be weird, but I really love it. I love the scones, the elephant ears, the art and photography exhibits, the World’s Largest Pig, Horse, and Alligator, the traveling shows, the free concerts, the Carnies, the 12” tall ice cream cones, the smell of the cow barn, the 4H kids, and the weird people with the Britney Spears’ headset-style microphones trying to sell you the latest knife set. Did I mention the scones?
From the moment we walked through the Yellow Gate, my son had two things on his mind: rides and games. We were starving and we knew that we had to eat something before we made our way to the ride and game area because once we got there, there would be no turning back.
So we ate our food and, distracting our son with pop and candy, tried to look at a few of the cool grown-up exhibits. But that’s when it happened.
Somewhere between the Fuzzy Magic Worm and the Obama ’08 booth, my six month old daughter let it rip. The only way I could stop her from being fussy was to have her ride on my shoulders through the exhibits. So with her head directly above mine, she puked all over me. Not just a little bit on my head or my shirt, but all over me!
That’s when I realized that this year there would be no hypnotist show, no French bread pizza, no hot-tub clearance sales, no baby pigs, no free hats from Toyota , and possibly no scones. My wife and I would have to sacrifice all that we love about the Oregon State Fair and make a B-Line over to the rides and the games before all parenting control would be lost.
So we did just that. And once my son realized that we were there amongst the over-priced rides and the scandalous games his face shown with glorious joy. This is what, for so long, he had been waiting for.
My son enjoyed every second of the canoe ride. He cherished every moment of the Indiana Jones’ish obstacle course. And for him – it was as if his life were complete as he whooshed up and down on the bouncing bus. Every ounce of his three year old life was revealed as he shot water into a clown’s mouth and caught plastic octopuses with a fishing pole. And my six month old daughter beamed from ear to ear as she watched the lights of the promenade flash off and on, and her big brother laughing with excitement as he went from ride to ride.
After all of the previous stress caused by my son’s anticipation and my daughter’s puking incident, my wife and I were at peace. We were at peace because life, for that moment, was balanced and where it should be.
That’s when I realized that THIS (this life of mine) IS NOT ABOUT ME anymore. It’s not about me eating scones or watching two grown men mix comedy and professional juggling. It’s about making sure that my kids are loved, safe, and are enjoying life. It’s about doing what Jesus spoke of: ‘Loving my neighbor as I love myself ‘and ‘loving God with all that I’ve got.’
Sadly, today, in American Culture and equally in Christian Culture; life has become all about ME: What will make ME feel good? What will make ME more money? What will make people like ME more? What ministry will make ME look more important? What will make ME holier than my neighbor? How can I get God to bless ME with more Spiritual Gifts?
But Scripture centers us back to where we are supposed to be – life being all about GOD. Take the Bible’s very first verse for example; “In the beginning GOD created the heavens and the earth.” This story is about GOD, not about ME.
As the Scriptures culminate in the book of Revelation, we see a beautiful picture of all things restored, balanced, and where they should be. “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
These were people from all over the world with their focus, not on themselves, but on God.
And just like my wife and I at the Oregon State Fair, we must come to the realization that life is balanced and where it should be when the focus is not on us, but when the focus is on HIM. And when the focus is on HIM, He sets it on others as well.
What if there were enormous banners lining the walls of your church’s sanctuary that said “THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU”? Would that change the way you worshipped? What if your alarm clock woke you up every morning with the words,” THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU”? Would that make getting ready in the morning any easier? What if every bill board you passed on the street said, “THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU”? Would that change the way you drove? What if the thought, “THIS IS NOT ABOUT ME” passed through your brain throughout the day? Would that change the way you lived? Would that help you shift the focus off of YOU and onto HIM? Would that help you pay attention to the needs of those around you?
Think about it – this is not about you.
Anthony Trask is the husband of one wife and the father of two children. He currently spends his time with over 50 international high school boys as a dean at an international boarding school in Southern Oregon. You can check out his blog and listen to some of his teachings at anthonytrask.com.