A while back I saw (excuse the pun) an optometrist for a regular eye examination. Having tested my eyes, she commented that my eyes are healthy but, because I am aging, my sight is weakening. Eye trouble seems to attend the advancement of the calendar. Deterioration is part and parcel of living in a sin-affected body in a sin-affected and hence broken world. But there is another kind of “I” trouble that should actually diminish over the passage of time—at least for the growing Christian. As the Christian grows in grace, it is to be expected that the focus on “me,” “myself,” and “I” should be less apparent. As Scripture examines the life of an aging Christian, it is hoped that, even though their eye trouble increases, their “I” trouble will be making some improvement.
In a recent intense and intentional study of the book of Ecclesiastes, I was particularly struck in chapter 2 by how often the author (Solomon?) used first person pronouns. That is, he talked about himself. As Solomon recounted his vain attempts at controlling life and determining his own destiny, I counted the word “I” seventeen times in the first eleven verses. The words “my,” “me,” and “myself” occur 21 times. Small wonder he was so miserable!
When we put ourselves at the centre of the universe, or (only) at the centre of the planet, we are bound to conclude that life is both frustrating and futile. It is frustrating because we soon discover that a lot of other people who inhabit our same world also have “I” trouble; they also think life should revolve them. Further, when it is all about me, we eventually find that our attempts at self-promotion end in empty futility. Because our hearts are restless (as Augustine said) until they find their rest in God, no amount of “me” and “myself” and “mine” and “I” will fill that void. As Tom Brady, perhaps the greatest quarterback of all time, lamented after winning his umpteenth Super Bowl, “Is this really all there is?” Without Jesus Christ being at the centre, then, yes, Tom, this is all there is. Or better, in the words of John the Baptist, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
Brothers and sisters, the longer we have been Christians the more bitter sin should be to us and hence the sweeter Christ will be to us. But as Puritan pastor Thomas Watson reminds us, “Till sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.” Including the sin of “I” trouble.
One way to deal with “I” trouble is to listen to yourself. How often do you find yourself making the conversation all about you? Do you find yourself taking credit for what can only rightfully be attributed to God? Do you always have to have the last word? Must your opinion always walk away with the victory? Are you always the hero of the story or are you ever the villain? And here is a good indicator of whether “I” trouble needs to be addressed: Do you find yourself looking for ways to affirm another person? Do you gladly engage in rejoicing with those who rejoice?
Like my optometrist, who, with her sophisticated equipment, can diagnose eye trouble, I am sure that, if we are honest before the Lord, our Great Physician will point out the malady of our “I” trouble. And as we earnestly ask him to help us, then, no doubt, as we age, we will learn to esteem others better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3–4).
Something to think about,