As a child I often felt driven not only to succeed, but also to be noticed by my parents and my peers. I wanted others to see me as good enough, worthy and outstanding. As I grew older and became a Christian these drives didn't disappear. They became christianized. I wanted to show my Heavenly Father that he should be glad he saved me, and that his grace was not poured on me in vain.
Sincerity was not the issue. Rather, self-consciousness and self-focus were. This bothered me because my sin and pride were tightly woven throughout. Once the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to this attitude, I wanted God to control this area of my life. So I prayed and read God's Word for answers, but was still left with many questions.
Some Scriptures said to focus my ministry and my life on God and God alone. I agreed with those Scriptures. I pursued God and gave him the credit when he used me. Phrases such as, "It wasn't me; it was Christ working through me," and "Praise God, praise God" became frequent mantras. Sometimes, however, they sounded pious and insincere. Some people felt awkward when I used those phrases. I began to feel the same.
Over time I focused so much on glorifying Christ that I became irritated with the people I was called to serve. I wanted to flee my earthly responsibilities to be alone with God more and to seek his face. I felt my heart was in agreement with Peter, James and John when they were on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus. I wanted to camp out here. I soon realized I was out of balance.
I then decided I'd become passionate for the lost and hurting. I so dramatically changed my focus to help others that over time, I burned out. I became emotionally and physically depleted as I tried to meet the needs of my family and our growing church. At that point I didn't know that it was okay to have margins, to let some needs go unmet, or to say no very often. I thought if a need arose, I was supposed to meet it.
After some recovery time, reevaluation, prayer and Bible study, I began to get a healthy balance. Although sometimes I felt confused and defeated, I was determined. I wanted the right balance between seeking God's glory and having a heart to serve others. Since I am easily distracted, I needed something concrete to focus on.
The Lord then gave me an idea that helped me focus and balance my life. Maybe it will help you if you struggle in this area.
Initially it was necessary to focus my mind and heart on loving the Lord and loving others. Then I sensed the Holy Spirit show me that when I met someone I would look them in the eye and think, "Knowing Christ is the most important thing in my life. How can I help you know him better?" This helped me focus on both the Lord and the other person. It got my eyes off myself and prepared me so that God could use me in that person's life. This was vastly different from how things were before. Formerly I'd be overly concerned with myself during each social encounter. What does this person think about me? That became my focus. I would come away from an encounter with a person and remember little about her other than what she looked like. As a committed Christian this was unacceptable.
This shift takes persistent practice. With time and determination, however, even if I don't repeat these words internally, my heart and my mind subconsciously respond. This practice has helped free me from habitual self-focus and has given me a healthier balance between loving God and serving others that I desired.