Websters dictionary defines this phrase as ‘having or showing no thought of self or selfish interests.’ Not thinking of one’s own advantage, wants, or desires.
In a sermon by Tim Keller, he describes self forgetfulness as “not thinking more of yourself or less of yourself, BUT thinking of yourself less.’
Ouch. Not a phrase our culture values, loves, or promotes. Instead, it tells us quite the oposite. Self focus. Self esteem. Self promotion. Do what makes you happy. Make yourself look good. You deserve it. It’s all about you.
Yet God calls us to a better way. A far greater one. As I’m learning this in my own life, it’s not always easy. There are growing pains and lots of stretching that take place as I grow in understanding what it means to take my eyes off of me. Yet I’m finding there is greater joy, far more abundant, as I swap my gaze instead on the One who deserves to be made much of.
So how is this possible? Can we live like this in such a self focused world? What does this look like in the everyday? I am FAR from an expert and have yet so much to learn, but this is one thing God has been opening my eyes to lately through time spent with Him.
Many times, I try to live out this self-forgetfulness in the wrong way. I try to muster it up in my own strength. I try to repeat to myself “focus on those around you, don’t be consumed with you.” Feelings of guilt creep in when I fail. Yet, in these times I’m getting it all wrong. My gaze is in the wrong place.
Instead of thinking “focus on others, focus on others,” Jesus is telling me, “Fix your eyes on Me.” When my eyes are resting on Jesus, who He is, and what He’s done for me, my affection for Him grows. And when my affection for Him grows, my desires for the lesser things diminish. When I daily mediate upon His promises, my preoccupation with self begins to fade away. As I learn to moment by moment gaze upon Jesus and behold his goodness, my self forgetfulness increases all the more.
Will I be perfect at it? Of course not! Will I mess up every day? Yes! But God, in His goodness and grace, is so patient with us as we learn what it means to treasure Him above all else in this fallen world.
May our lives declare the beauty of what this treasured hymn sings,
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.”