Many people are self-focused; which really is just a nice way of saying they are self-centered or selfish. And what I have noticed is that the more troubled my life becomes the more self-focused other people seem to be.
I’ll never forget the day I decided to try a new church. Just months after being widowed, I had moved and was looking for a church that would become like extended family. That day, I had gone through the process of finding the place where my children would go during the service and after leaving them in the capable hands of the teachers, I walked to the sanctuary. As people were milling around, I waited for someone to introduce themselves to me…but no one did. With my heart pounding and my hands sweating, I realized just how alone I was. New situations hadn’t bothered me before, but that was because I normally had my husband at my side.
When I found a seat, I half expected the people sitting next to me to turn their heads and acknowledge my presence, but they didn’t.
Then, as the worship began, I found myself fighting back tears. When your late husband was an amazing worship leader, pretty much any song sung in church reminds you of him. And so there I stood, alone, in an unfamiliar church, choking back tears. For a moment I was embarrassed because I felt I was making a scene. But that moment of embarrassment vanished when I realized my sorrow had gone unseen.
For a while, that day really bothered me. How could those people be so self-focused that they didn’t even notice me? I felt invisible. I felt as if no one cared.
Months later, as the intensity of my grief wore off I came to see something. It’s not the people around me who have become more self-focused during my trials- it’s me. And honestly, at times I’m the most self-focused person I know!
I had walked into that church feeling as if everyone should notice me. I stood during worship and had the audacity to think that the people gathered there would be looking at me instead of worshiping God.
If I have learned only one thing the past few years, it’s that life isn’t all about me. And much like this memory shows, church isn’t all about me. And that's a good thing!
This has challenged me. Not only should I extend grace to those who I feel might be uncaring, but also to remember that other people may seem self-focused simply for the reason that they are going through a trial.
If I am swallowed up by my own grief, how will I ever see the sobbing person next to me? Will I cause someone else to feel invisible?
May we each strive to see the people around us who need words of love and grace. May we each strive to be less self-focused and more Christ-focused as we go about our days.