This is the time of year when, supposedly, we are filled with the spirit of giving and we become less selfish and more focused on others.
There is much giving. I don't want to discount that at all. It warms my heart, sometimes brings tears to my eyes, to see people giving of themselves to touch others, especially people struggling in some way.
Fact is, I like to think of myself as a generous, unselfish person. I pray regularly, "Lord, what do you want me to do? Where do you want me to go? Who do you want me to touch? Use me." All very unselfish, eh? I find, however, that I usually want to be unselfish on my terms, in ways that are not too difficult. Sure, it will cost me time and money to give and serve, but I get to choose when, where, how and why, right? Oops. I hear warning signals going off.
WHOOP WHOOP WHOOP WHOOP WHOOP WHOOP!!!!!!!
God (no other way to explain it) began to blow this all up in my face beginning Nov. 1 when I read Oswald Chambers devotional for the day in "My Utmost for His Highest." (I strongly suggest you read it. You can buy the book or access it online at http://myutmost.org/).
Chambers identified that God involves Himself in our lives, not for ourselves, rather so that we can become "a thoroughfare for the world on one hand and for Himself on the other"
and that "things happen that have nothing to do with us"
and we must let God have His way in our lives or we will become "a hindrance and a clog"
and "why shouldn't we go through heartaches? Through these doorways God is opening up ways of fellowship with His Son."
and "If through a broken heart God can bring His purposes to pass in the world, then thank Him for breaking your heart." 
Whoa! I really, really, really thought I had dealt with the self-focused thing, but this is a couple levels up. Guess I made the mistake of comparing myself to little leaguers instead of the pros.
I love this book. God has used it to speak deeply into my life, but on this day I had a few issues with dear Oswald. We had a talk. (Not sure what it means to talk intensely with a dead guy, staring at his book. I may need therapy.)
First of all, Oswald, "can I call you Oswald?" (He didn't answer, for which, looking back, I'm grateful) a "thoroughfare" is a road that people drive on, use to get somewhere with little thought of the road itself. I'm supposed to be THAT for God and others? A path, a way for others to get to God and God to get to people while people hardly notice the road that got them there? Whoa!
Next, Oswald, when things happen in my life, how am I supposed to think they are NOT about me? I mean, it is happening in MY life. Can it actually be true that pain in my life is necessary for God to reach into others' lives and that it is not about my disobedience or obedience at all? Is my response to God a key to Him working in others' lives, though I cannot see it? And can it be true that failure to be a proper "thoroughfare" makes me a hindrance and a clog to others? THOUGHT: Like my car breaking down in rush hour traffic in the Fort Pitt Tunnel, my failure to run properly can clog others from getting to God and how He wants to touch their lives. Whoa!
Now, about that heartache thing, Oswald. Can't we have "fellowship" with Jesus through inspiring songs, good books, Bible reading, etc. etc. etc. without the pain thing? "Sure", God, not Oswald, seemed to respond, "but not to the depths needed." It was how Jesus learned obedience and the reason He was exalted after His death. "A privilege" the Apostle Paul calls it. Whoa!
Finally, Oswald, there's this bit "thank Him for breaking your heart." Okay, it's one thing to appreciate the pain, but to thank God for doing it? Yep. Not FOR the pain, but because of what the pain will do for OTHERS. Another picture. Talk to any loving mom, they are grateful for the honor of birthing a child, but not one of them enjoyed the pain. Worth it? Oh, yeah. Enjoyable? "What, are you crazy?"
Wait, there's more. Oswald and God had been very patient and understanding, and we finally settled these issues with, "Alright, go ahead. Whatever You think is best." More resignation than excitement. Hey, I'm human. God was not done (never is). He reminded me of the prayers I usually pray when I think I'm being unselfish. Read them again at the top of this page. See anything jump out? Yeah, they are still all about ME. ME to do, go, touch, be used.
If I'm to become a thoroughfare, then I must start praying, "Lord, I'm yours. Do whatever you want in me and through me." The word "me" is still there, but with a different focus. Subtle, yet HUGE.
It is a journey to become that kind of unselfish. I feel like I've just taken a step or two. It would be a much more enjoyable journey if you'd join me on the path.
"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." Phil 1:21 (NIV)
"I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings , becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead." Phil 3:10-11 (NIV)
(To listen to Herb via the internet go to http://www.newsongpittsburgh.org/sermons.htm)
Chambers, Oswald: My Utmost for His Highest : Selections for the Year . Grand Rapids, MI : Discovery House Publishers, 1993, c1935, S. November 1