Let Me “Paintball” You a Picture
I often jokingly proclaim, “I’m the most humble person in the world!” Of course, the irony of that statement is thick and instantly makes it a lie.
Maintaining a humble attitude is a fickle thing. One day you find yourself cruising down the road of life in your 1971 rusted and clunky Ford Pinto and you know that you are where God wants you. And as you realize just how amazingly humble you are, Self-Righteousness pulls up alongside you in a shiny new, sparkling Porche and he invites you to jump in his car. Of course, Self-Righteousness’ cousin is Pride. And even though your car is shiny and has that new-car smell, no one will want to ride with you. No one is truly attracted to ego unless they themselves are trying to stroke their own. Maybe you feel like your “car” smells like a milkshake spilled in the backseat a week ago and you left the windows up while it sat it the sun kind of smell. But which car would Jesus rather ride in?
One day my wife and I were given a nice sum of money from someone at our church, but there was no card or name attached to the gift. We had no idea who gave us the blessing. And trust me, it was a huge blessing. Then it struck me. Could I do that? Could I give to God in a way that wasn’t somehow acknowledged at least a little bit by someone I know on earth?
It is incredibly difficult to do anything that is truly humble and selfless. If I am on a stage leading worship songs in front of thousands of people, then how easy would it be for me to slip into the trap of performance and wanting people to like me or the songs I’ve written? That’s the opposite of leading worship. I don’t want to draw any attention to me unless it first and foremost draws attention to the Father through me. Or what if I help someone pack their boxes and move to another house? Am I doing it solely because I just want to help them and I’m full of love for them? Or is there a small part of me that wants them to like me more because, well, I’m such a great servant?
How much do any of us do that isn’t somehow tainted, however slightly, with self-interest?
I recently attended a 30th birthday party at a paintball course. If you don’t know what paintball is, it is basically an opportunity for grown men to act like kids who think they’re acting like tough, grown men with guns. You play capture the flag and shoot little balls of paint at your opponents to “tag” them out of the game. Now, I’ve been jogging off and on since the spring and through the summer, so on this fall day, I was fairly confident in my conditioning and prowess with a gun that fires a ball about 200 mph. Don’t worry, there’s a spiritual connection coming.
During one particular game of capture the flag, we were placed in the woods by the referee. I partnered with a friend as we worked our way along the right side perimeter of the course and headed toward the flag. I had seen enough action movies to understand how it worked. One guy shoots (causing the enemy to duck behind their defenses) while the other guy runs and slides behind a barrel or a tree stump. Players from both sides were slowly eliminated with blasts of paint that stung worse than a non-insured prescription medicine bill.
We drew in closer and closer, but then my partner got tagged with paint and was eliminated and joined the rest of the guys who were knocked out of the arena. They were lined up along the far, north side of the woods just outside the perimeter. I could see a few of my teammates still working their way across near and in front of them, while I appeared to be alone down on the south side, near the flag. I took out the last defender between me and the flag with a precision shot that would make Legolas jealous. The ref announced that there was only two minutes left. I decided to go for it. I burst from behind my cover, ran towards the flag, grabbed it, and started my mad dash back to our own flag. And when I say dash, I meant mini-marathon. I hadn’t realized how far I had come to get the flag. So as I sprinted through the woods, I could could still hear gunfire. I imagined paint bullets whizzing past my ear. I heroically drew closer to our home base, where the enemy flag needed to be returned. By this point, I realized I was not in as good of shape as I thought, but my fallen comrades deserved my best. The massive, red welts on their stomachs, necks and legs would not be in vain! Finally, with my heart about to explode out of my chest, I made it back and returned the flag. The ref yelled out that the game was over. We had won!
As I worked my way back up the hill, I was slightly bent over from absolute exhaustion. I could hear my breathing in my mask and I sounded like Darth Vader encouraging his pregnant wife to practice her Lamaze training. As I rejoined my friends at the top of the hill, I expected to hear some sort of, “Way to go, Gary,” or a “Thanks for saving the day.” But I got nothing. No one said anything to me. We started to work our way back toward the camp where we would gather between matches to eat and refuel on paint bullets and such.
My ego was struggling. I almost died for these guys and they weren’t patting my back. Then I overheard someone say, “Too bad that last game ended in a draw because the time expired.” I was shocked. “Uh, no it didn’t,” I said, because I was able to talk now. “I got the flag back to base. That’s how we won and the game ended.” Everyone who overheard us seemed shocked, and that’s when it dawned on me. No one had seen me get the flag and make it back to our base. We still won, but no one had seen it.
I really believe that our Christian walk, in many ways, should largely reflect this metaphorical analogy. How much of the race of life are we doing so we can be seen doing it? But really, which do you think brings a larger smile to God’s face- the good deed that everyone sees, or the good deed that only God has witnessed?
This is a challenge to me as much as it is to you. I want to be the silent, behind-the-scenes worker for Christ more than I am up on a stage or out in the world. I want to do things for others that NO one knows about except for God.
Let me be clear, there is nothing wrong with doing things for others that people see. Sometimes we have to serve in that way. But a little self-evaluation regarding our motives never hurts.
I often wonder how many things Jesus did for others that weren’t recorded in scripture. Hundreds, maybe thousands of acts of ministry that weren’t recorded. But the very nature of Jesus was a model for humility. And I desperately want to be more like Him.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.