I have called over 21 places home at some point or another in my life. My military brat upbringing normalized change for me and, when I was on my own, I traveled north as a nanny and then followed my ex-husband around the country during his military service. I thrived on the constant change and each move meant another opportunity to redefine who I was.
To make matters worse, if you look back a few generations into my lineage you’ll find that my ancestors were, in fact, gypsies. From Bohemia. Actual gypsies. So the Boho mindset isn’t just something that appeals to me, it runs in my blood. My bohemian tendencies creep into my relationships, interests, and especially into my business.
I was talking with some friends the other night at a shared meal and we discussed the struggle of being incredibly grateful for blessings, and gifts, and the beauty of God’s creation but then also embracing ambition, and calling, and empowerment. At what point is my need for change–new knowledge, experiences, and accomplishment–considered discontentment (known as a sin by most Christians)?
This is a theme I’ve been struggling with for several months now. Do I live contently with the opportunities I’ve been given or amp up again to do more? And how much of this is created by an inflated ego that gets puffed up with entrepreneurial success and then deflated again when I compare myself to others who are further along than I am?
One of my friends thought that a quick read of The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Tim Keller might help. By the way, apparently it’s offensive to blurt out that you’ve already read a book that a friend recommends. But because he mentioned it, I read it again. And I got way more out of it this time around.
“Because the essence of gospel humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, but it is thinking of myself less.” – Tim Keller
When I first heard this quote, I assumed it meant to take focus off of myself and onto other people and to strive to contribute to their journey.
But I’m still in that equation, aren’t I? Focusing on how I bring value to others–or how I take value from them–is still focusing on me. Even if I have good intentions and truly want to see my clients, friends, and colleagues succeed, those repeating thoughts in my head are targeting me and what I have or haven’t done. And I’m basing my value off of whether or not I’ve met the standards I’ve set or that someone else has given me.
As Keller puts it, it doesn’t matter if we are trying to live by someone else’s standards or our own, we’re always evaluated in relation to how we compare with others – are we nicer, richer, poorer, prettier, smarter, etc. It’s a trap to decide between making decisions based off of what other people expect of you or what you expect of yourself.
We know that this situation is in conflict with the gospel because Scripture indicates that our value and freedom come from God and the blessings that were poured down on us when Christ’s sacrifice conquered death on our behalf. We are never going to get it all right, but that doesn’t stop us from accessing Heaven through a posture of submission to God and a continual pursuit of Jesus.
Another read through the book and it makes sense that Paul wanted the Corinthians to know that true gospel-humility means we stop connecting every experience and conversation with ourselves. It has nothing to do us.
He [Paul] will not play that game. He does not see a sin and let it destroy his sense of identity. He will not make a connection. Neither does he see an accomplishment and congratulate himself. He sees all kinds of sins in himself–and all kinds of accomplishments too–but he refuses to connect them with himself or his identity.”
Am I magically content because I now understand this? No.
Am I still a Bohemian at heart with an inability to settle? Yes.
But will I be more likely to separate my accomplishments and failures from the essence of who I am? Absolutely. And that means that whatever my next steps are, I have the choice of enjoying the experience without fear or expectation of how they will define me – good or bad.
Just for Fun
“If this is all I need, why do I want more?”