“You shall have no other gods before me.”
We see the world through the flimsiest of lenses, constructed of our wishes, desires, and beliefs (but rarely constrained by reality). “All the world’s a stage,” begins one of William Shakespeare’s most famous monologues. We see ourselves as the star of the show performed on the stage of our minds, played out with the background narration of our self-talk.
Whether you are brash and arrogantly obnoxious (like me), or demurely self-deprecating, your thoughts and your actions betray the intrinsic ego-centricity that is the human condition. In your world, the spotlight shines steadily and unflinchingly upon your performance as the Star, surrounded by various supporting characters.
While this is the way I see myself, I am not the star of anyone else’s show. My illusions of my own significance were unceremoniously shattered when my son told me of his plans to get married. Of course, we were delighted and couldn’t wait to meet his intended. She did not disappoint, and is the most delightful and complimentary mate my son could have chosen. I found myself desperately wanting to know her, in the intimacy that introverts require, and in the way I know my own daughters, who have lived under my roof for most of their lives.
The harsh reality is, I’m just not that important in their world. When she looks at him, her eyes sparkle and there is barely room for anyone else on the stage. As much as I’d like to have a bigger part, it just wasn’t written for me. When I think the the relationship I have with my in-laws, and that of my wife with my family, I realize that I will, at best, have a minor supporting part in their play. And I’m humbled.
I shared this insight with my high-school daughter, and she really resonated with it. When you think of all the drama that makes up the high school experience (who likes whom, who said what, who did or didn’t do what), the reality is that we have a much smaller role on someone else’s stage than we think we do. They just don’t think about you nearly as much as you think they do. They don’t care what you wear, they don’t care what you say (unless it’s about them), and they don’t care what you think. They are much more preoccupied with their illusion of their own significance in your performance.
Now here is the rub. We actually are all players on God’s stage and He is the star of the show. As the saying goes, history is His story. When I think I’m the star, I sin against God. We tend to simply call it selfishness, but in reality it runs much deeper. I have become convinced that selfishness is the root of pretty much every sin. What did the serpent say in the Garden? “You will become like God…” Wanting to take God’s place was Lucifer/Satan’s rebellion; it is actually idolatry: worshipping the created thing instead of the creator.
Many people think the Ten Commandments are proscriptive, keeping us from doing what we want to do. In reality, they are a part of God’s blueprint for living. I have tried this God thing, and I’m not very good at it. So when I realize that I am a supporting player — dearly loved, bought with a great price, but not the star — I am freed from the pressure of trying to make everything turn out all right. Letting God be God is not a burden, it is liberating.
In my household, my wife and I have different roles. I make the money, and she spends it. It is an arrangement that exploits our strengths and minimizes our weaknesses. I have a skill that is very marketable, and she is a gifted shopper. If we tried to play each other’s part, it would not end well. I don’t shop, I buy (and I hate doing it); my wife despises rush hour traffic and workplace pressures. But when we each fulfill our role, play our part, together we make a successful household.
So it is in the spiritual realm. We each have a part to play, just not the main part. It has been said that the first two rules of human enlightenment are: there is a God; and you aren’t him. So stop trying to be.
Put the spotlight where it belongs. And walk in freedom.