The preacher man stood shaking on the stage.
That was the summer that three kids in my hometown had died unexpectedly. One Sunday, the church decided to address the tragedies.
A young man had passed away from a short and tiring fight against cancer. He had been an exemplary student, respectful, a servant-heart. People were saying that his life had been cut too short, and the preacher man wanted to speak against that. This kid’s life had impacted so many other people. What others saw as someone being taken too soon, God was using to write a better story. That was when the preacher man started to shake: “This young man’s tombstone reads, ‘His life was a flame that seared all of those around him who were in search of warmth.'”
Those were the words I wanted to live up to. Those were the words I nodded to and said, “Yes, write that on my grave-marker. Let that be what my life looks like, the way I’m remembered when I’m gone.”
So, that was the plan for a good 20 or so years. Veered off from that path for a hot second, but I think that’s secretly what everyone wants for their life: to leave fingerprints, the kind that breaks a heart and leaves a hole and makes someone glad that you had been there.
But like I said, I veered off from that path about two years ago, and although there are some in between places that I don’t like to revisit often, the rabbit trail I followed landed my feet on new ground: I got shell-shocked, rocked, and humbled.
The other day, there was a status on Facebook that basically asked what you would want to have written on our tombstone when you die. Now, I think you could sum my life up in four words: “It’s not about me.”
The fact that I used to have a platform followed by sixty thousand followers who were straining to believe the truth that they were worth something — it was never about me.
My marriage, my love story, and all the beautiful things I’d waited for that landed in my lap — it’s not about me.
The achievements, the moments I got to stand on stage, or run-ins with hearts that told me that somehow my words helped them — never about me.
The followers, the likes, the retweets — they aren’t about me.
Every good thing in my life that I could’ve easily been caught up in, every crack that pride could’ve seeped through, every chance I could’ve taken to take credit for any real life change in someone else — I have spent my life fighting back with the realization that none of it has been about me.
Stages are meant for God’s voice to boom over the microphone; spotlights are for shedding some understanding on who God is; followings are meant to be shepherded in such a way that followers don’t see you as their leader, they see God as your head.
That’s been the motto. It was nice to write in my Facebook bio when I was in eighth grade, and it’s done a good job of keeping me humble and keeping me on my toes for opportunities to give God glory, but I don’t think I grasped how far that mentality could stretch.
You see, making my way through the New Testament, Jesus repeatedly reminds us: “If they persecute you, they are doing so for My sake, trying to persecute Me. If they hate you, it’s because they hated Me first.”
So lately, I’ve been wondering what my life would look like if I fully dove in to the belief that nothing in this life is actually about me:
When I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and everyone told me that it wouldn’t have happened to me if I had just had a stronger faith, if I had prayed more — it wasn’t about me.
The dark rooms filled with roaming hands and hushed objections that left me feeling like nothing more than an old shirt someone didn’t want to wear anymore — it wasn’t about me.
The day the world stopped spinning, and I lost my mind because he said he didn’t love me anymore, that his life was significantly better without me in it — it wasn’t about me.
When my friends stopped choosing me, when I found myself alone and very much lonely-hearted, like I wasn’t worth anything and didn’t have a place — never about me.
Even the things that my own mind tells me, beating me up and convincing me of the most irrational lies that leave me curled up in bed — it’s not about me.
Every high and every low are just opportunities to steal our focus from Jesus and His cross as far as the enemy is concerned. When we are feeling good about ourselves– well then, he’s sure to keep us looking at ourselves, having us believing we are self-sufficient. When we are drowning in self loathing, he sneaks in and keeps us staring at all of the places in our hearts that need fixing rather than gazing at the healing done by the cross.
No, nothing in this life is about me: the good, the bad, the struggling, the loneliness, the rejection, the spotlight, the praise, the followers, the dark, the mountaintop moments and the valley trudges, the love, the mess, the hurt, the breathless moments and the wind getting knocked out of me, the opportunities and the doors that slam in my face, the lack of belonging — none of it is about me.
I just happen to be standing in the middle of a battle that’s been going on long before I walked on to the scene with my knobby knees and battle cry. I’m not the one the enemy is taking shots at, but he sure will try to use me as his weapon.
There’s a strange comfort that comes with knowing that the pain is empty, that it’s just collateral. Makes me feel a bit braver, louder, stronger.
When it hurts, I will remember — it’s not about me.
None of it.