For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,
but the one who humbles himself will be exalted. (Luke 14:11)
It's just so difficult for me sometimes...to let go of my plans, my goals, and even my needs... for the sake of someone else. Too often I feel like what I "have" to do is more important. Sometimes I even go so far as to suggest what I want to do is holier...more spiritually valuable...than what they are doing...which of course is an attempt to make me feel even more justified it putting myself first.
But I guess that is why we aren't called just to deny our "self"...but to kill our "self." And not just kill our self....but crucify it.
I have to die to all these little thrusts of self. I have to deliberately, and even stubbornly, deny what I want for the sake of what someone else wants...and still more for the sake of what someone else needs. I need to humble myself and eat at the restaurant my wife wants, even (and maybe especially) when I wanted to go somewhere else...because love puts others first...and so her wants should come before mine. I need to emphasize my colleague's contribution to the project that everyone is praising even though I may think I did (and may actually have done) more of the work...because love puts others' needs first...and my colleague needs to feel encouraged and supported. I need to agree to a meeting at 7:00pm rather than 6:00pm because that is the best time for someone else on the committee to meet, even though I didn't want to be out that late...because love is about less of my wants and more about others.
All of these seemingly insignificant things...or maybe not-so-insignificant things...where I could easily justify "sticking to my guns" or "following my gut" or "getting my way for a change"...these are opportunities to deny myself...to step back from the limelight, to value someone else above me, and to let them have the better seat at the table.
And He began speaking a parable to the invited guests when He noticed how they had been picking out the places of honor at the table, saying to them, "When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, 'Give your place to this man,' and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. "But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, 'Friend, move up higher '; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you. "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 14:7-11)
I think there is an important piece of this parable that we often miss. You see, not only does Jesus explain that we should seat ourselves at the lower spot and humble ourselves and make ourselves the least among the guests, but He also explains why. Because when we humble ourselves and take the lower seat, then the Host will come and set things right. He will move us to a higher seat. To me what this says is that I don't need to worry about my "need" being met or about never getting what I want or about missing an opportunity. Because God is in control. He will do the exalting...the supporting...the need meeting. And so whatever opportunity I may think I am passing up, whatever need I think I am sacrificing...God can accomplish...and accomplish better than I could. We must remember, all things are possible. So when we miss that opportunity or give up somethng we wanted, we need to remember that it is God who meets are needs and orders our days. And nothing can disrupt His will. Not a boss, or a spouse, or a pastor, or anyone. So the seemingly logical protest of my flesh ("sure self-discipline is good every now and then, but it isn't always practical...like in this instance") can be seen for what it is...another attempt at trying to sit at the head of the table.
The call of Love is simple: Less of me...and More of Him. Which really means: Less of me...and more of others.