1 John 5:14-21
I don’t know if it results from being one of ten children or if it is in the genes I inherited from my driven type-A father, but I have a competitive streak. I want to be exceptionally good at whatever I do. I strive for perfection, preparing endlessly and working very hard. This is both an advantage and a nemesis. It allows God to use me in many ways and most of the time I feel humbled and privileged to be God’s instrument. At other times, though, my shadow side breaks through.
When that happens, I am tempted to compare myself to others in unhealthy ways. I feel envy creeping in when someone else’s presentations or classes receive higher ratings than mine. I have to fight the desire to be recognized and rewarded. When I’m on a team, I get too impatient with people who are not working as hard as I am. I find myself being overly critical of another’s successes. In short (and to my profound embarrassment), I realize that I want others to decrease so I can increase.
At the same time, when I do achieve something or am recognized for my abilities, I can be tempted to take all the credit myself. It is too easy to forget that all my abilities were given to me from heaven, and that it is only the grace of God working through me that touches people’s hearts and changes their lives. I have been given many gifts and I hope I am using them well, but God is the focal point and destination, not me. God is God, and I am clearly not.
John’s gospel today is a relevant and pointed lesson. John had created quite a name for himself. He achieved "success" in the eyes of the world and was recognized as a force in the society. Yet he gladly and humbly steps aside for Jesus, whom he knows is greater than he. In fact, when he sees people flock to Jesus, John proclaims that his joy is complete.
My challenge is to counter my shadow side with John’s gospel. As it so aptly reminds me, God is the source of everything I have, everyone I love, and everything I own. Nothing I have and nothing I have done would be possible without God. In this new year, may I be even more aware that in all I do, God must increase and I must decrease. It is only in that way that my joy may become complete.
Amy Florian is a teacher and consultant working in Chicago. For many years she has partnered with the Passionists. See Amy’s website: http://www.amyflorian.com/.