I do not know about you, but my own self-righteous bubble can keep me from connecting with everyday people. I think “I don’t struggle with self-righteousness” (a self-righteous thought in itself!) and then something catches me to recognize how separate I’ve made myself and how much in my little safe Christian bubble I like to stay. Do you have a strong bubble too?
Just this past weekend I was on the road traveling and staying in a hotel. I got up early in the morning to get in a run before my busy day (even if you are not an exerciser, stick with me here). My app said it was -31◦C with the wind-chill. I didn’t have all my layers with me so I decided it was a good day to make it an indoor run. I headed down to the hotel gym, where there were glass doors looking into the gym and then a little slot when you had to put your key card to get in. I was so excited as I looked into the gym because I saw two treadmills and nobody was on them, in fact I’d have the whole gym to myself. The introverted part of me rejoiced “This was going to be perfect!” However, when I put my key card into the slot nothing happened. I tried it a few times, still nothing. I headed to the front desk – where an employee fixed my key card and also told me it was a busy weekend because a shoe convention was going on in the hotel. I headed back to the gym and this time a lady had started walking on one of the treadmills, which was “A-ok,” there was still another treadmill to use. As I headed to that second treadmill I saw someone’s cell phone in the cup holder, so I hopefully asked the lady “Oh, did someone forget their cell phone?”, to which she responds “No, my friend is using that she just went to get her water bottle.”
I was instantly deflated and confess to you that the self-righteous thoughts started immediately “Is she going to use this precious treadmill for walking too?”
I quickly scan the room and see the other cardio equipment is one of those seated (recumbent) bikes. Do you know the one machine I dislike more than the dreadmill? The seated bike.
I head over and get started on that torturous machine. From where I sit and pedal I can see the controls on the two ladies’ treadmills. As they walk away my thoughts start spiraling into poisonous territory:
“They are walking…walking! On those precious treadmills.”
“Don’t they know, can’t they tell – I am a runner, I neeeeeed to get in my training.”
“They are not even breaking a sweat.”
I started watching their timers, watching to see if their treadmills switch to cool-down mode.
It is finally coming up on 20 minutes and I think “Twenty minutes is a good walk for these ladies, maybe when it gets to 20 minutes they’ll stop and I can hop on the treadmill.”
20 minutes comes and goes.
I desperately watch and wait as their clocks come up to 25 minutes, 30 minutes, 35 minutes…
By this point my self-righteousness has reached new heights and I’ve come up with a whole scenario in my head of why them walking before their shoe convention, which I imagine involves trying on lots of shoes and walking around A LOT, is not as valid and important as the run I wanted to get in. My agenda is more important than their agenda, isn’t it?
40 minutes later one of them gets off their treadmill
BUT I don’t hop on to the treadmill right away – well, because, I don’t want to appear too self-righteous!
Self-righteousness keeps me from connecting with real people.
I’ve built quite a bubble in my head.
“Why would I connect with ‘those’ people.”
“My agenda is more important than their agenda!”
However, I also realize a big piece of me was just scared – “How? How do I talk to someone who cares about a shoe convention?”
The exercise thing might not be when this self-righteous bubble forms around you…
except for maybe right now, as you judge me for how I acted that day.
Maybe the self-righteousness bubble forms around you when… ·
- when you see someone texting and driving and you think “I’d never, ever do that. What are they doing, they are putting themselves and the rest of us in danger.” Then your phone goes “ping” and you say “I better check and see who that is.”
- when you see the evidence of drunk University students having passed through your yard or street
- when you wonder why your church can’t sing YOUR favourite songs
- when we wonder why money in our church is going to them again - those youth, those people on social assistance…
- when we start a sentence with “When I was young…”
- when we say in our head
- “I’d never spend my money on THOSE things…”
- “I’d never vote for that guy…”
- “I would never act like that in my relationship…”
- “I’d never end up in that situation…”
- “We wouldn’t raise our kids that way…”
- “Are they on Facebook again?!”
- “They should buy their own snow-blower.”
- “Why don’t they….”
Where does this separation between “us” and “them” sneak into your thoughts? Your heart?
Our own self-righteousness keeps us from connecting with new people, people God dearly loves.
John 3:17 says “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
So what do we do when these self-righteous bubbles start to form?
1. Capture the thought
2. Confess it
3. Ask God to open an opportunity to connect – “God I don’t want to condemn others and keep myself at a distance, I want to be used by You for what You are doing in the world. I know You are saving the world!”
Yup, even us introverts are called to this. Our introverted depth and empathy can be a real comfort to others when we’re willing to connect and signal to others that we are not judging them, they are safe and welcome in our presence.
I need to get over myself. We, our churches, need to get over ourselves.
It is NOT about me.
It is not about my agenda.
It is not about my preferences.
It is about God’s agenda.
It is about who God wants to reach that our churches, us (Christians), are not currently reaching.
And you know what? God wants to reach ordinary people – the person getting in their morning walk on the treadmill, the person that cares about a shoe convention…
Furthermore, God wants to use you and me to do it, if we can get over ourselves, dump our self-righteous and say “hi”, tell me about your “shoe convention…”
“Hi – how’s your day going?”, “Hi – how’s your shift here going?”, “Hi – how’s life going?”
God IS opening doors of opportunity all around us but we’ll miss them unless we dump our self-righteousness.
There is a Pharisee in all of us that needs to be put to death so that we can connect with people from all different background and all walks of life.
This is what I’m learning about connecting with my neighbours in the places I live, work, study and play.
How about you? Where do you need to get out of your bubble?
Go ahead, burst the bubble.
P.S. – Yes, some of you have said it’s not just our self-righteous bubble it’s our whole Christian bubble that we’ve created. Absolutely true, Jesus wants to burst that bubble too. The one who walked among us calls us to walk among our neighbours. Go ahead, burst the bubble.