In women’s ministry there is a great temptation to which many ministers, including myself, fall prey. Because so many women need healing and freedom from bondage, ministers spend a lot of time empowering women with the truth of their salvation. And there is a danger here.
When a person spends all their time focusing on the problems of the self–self-image, self-esteem, etc.–this focus will inevitably shape the way you see the world. By talking about these issues incessantly, the “self” will become the center of your entire outlook in life. You are, in a sense, training your brain to think only about one thing, and if your conception of reality is dominated by one theme alone, that theme will eventually become the center of your entire world view.
That being said, the trap of women’s ministry is self-centeredness. In the quest to free ourselves, we often ensnare ourselves all the more. And this is not merely a trend in women’s ministry alone. A popular Christian preacher recently released his second book about getting a “better you,” and it was essentially secular self-help wisdom clothed in Christian jargon.
Yes, many people need healing, but not for the sake of our own personal happiness. We need healing so that we can stop obsessing over ourselves and instead be blessedly free to think about and worship God. Low self-esteem deters us from this end because we cannot stop thinking about our own lives and what we wish was different or better. Healthy self-esteem frees us from such thoughts so that we can instead focus on God.
With all of that in mind, I wanted to take a moment to remind everyone, myself again included, that there is a world outside of ourselves. I get so caught up thinking about my problems and pains, which boy likes me, how I look in such and such outfit, and on and on, that I forget there are other people in this world who are suffering. Just turn on the news–peaceful demonstrators are being slaughtered in Myanmar, innocent Iraqis are killed by car bombings every day, children are enslaved in sex trafficking all over the world, and the list goes on….
A couple years ago I read about a pastor in China who had been imprisoned about a dozen times for preaching the Gospel. During his most recent imprisonment he was placed in a labor camp where he was forced to put light bulbs on strings of Christmas lights. If he did not fulfill his daily quota, he would be brutally punished, if not tortured. And the kicker of the story? These Christmas lights were to be sold in the United States. I may have even hung them on my house.
Yet I’m not thinking about that pastor at Christmas time. I am instead thinking about all the presents I have to buy, or how annoying it is to go to the mall. When I wait in line at Target and get frustrated by the person who brought 11 items into the “10 Items or Less” express lane, I don’t think about the daily fear that our Iraqi sisters endure when they make simple trip to buy groceries. And as I relax in my air conditioned house worrying about all that I have to do that day, I don’t think about how blessed I am to have AC and clean, running water when others do not have such luxuries.
This is not about guilt–this is about right perspective. We need to constantly be correcting our brains so that our view of the world does not become dominated by the “self” alone, because such a perspective not only excludes others, but also excludes God. It is therefore important to stay aware of what’s going on in the world around us. Pick up a newspaper, turn on the news, listen to NPR on the radio–do something to stay aware of what’s going on in the world. This is not merely about educating yourself or being well-rounded; it is about disciplining your mind to think about the world and God’s perspective on it. It is an exercise in taking the mind off of the self. It is also a means for maintaining a correct perspective of the world–namely, that you are not the center of it.