It’s all about me

Published 8:12 pm Tuesday, October 22, 2019

By Charles Qualls

Years ago, Elizabeth and I vacationed in the city where we had met and were married. On this return visit, nearly 20 years later, we were at our favorite riverfront vantage point near the Ohio River. There was a large concrete landing just behind a towering hotel. Anyone could go and enjoy the view from there.

We looked about 30 feet away and recognized a friend of ours from back in Atlanta. In fact, he lived about 10 minutes away from us. We laughed at what a small world it was to run into each other. Then, he asked if we had plans for the evening. We did not.

Next thing we knew, we were being ushered into a grand ballroom of the hotel, where he was set to emcee a charity dinner for the local police foundation. There were about 700 citizens and celebrities gathered there. Coaches, politicians, actors and musicians had all turned out. Our friend, Durwood, took us around introducing us to famous guests like we were his children that night.

Eventually, we were posing for a photo with Ken Osmond. That name might not do much for you. After being a child television star, he actually had become a policeman and was disabled after being shot in the line of duty. That night he was there as one of the celebrity stars.

You might not know policeman Ken Osmond, but his character still runs on your television at some hour of the day or night. In his childhood, he was the actor who played the smarmy, under-handed Eddie Haskell on “Leave It to Beaver.”

Among characters who epitomize the notion that “It’s all about me,” Eddie Haskell might have been Ground Zero. For others of you, maybe Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone With the Wind” might be the picture in your mind when we say, “It’s all about me.”

“Gaston” from the Disney classic Beauty and the Beast is a character you might be thinking of just now. Or that Hollywood family, the Kardashians — with whom I have absolutely no interest in keeping up.

We live in what many demographers believe might be the most isolating time in our nation’s history. There have been general evolutions in technology, and more specifically the way technology has transformed some accompanying habits we have for working at home. We have myriad ways of entertaining ourselves that did not exist a few decades ago. We can dine alone on food cooked across town, or on food shipped to us from across the country. We can even shop from our laptops or phones.

We just don’t go out to do things like we used to. I’ve mentioned this before. A subtle result has been the creeping lie our culture has told us — and sometimes we are helping to spread this one. The lie is that for most of us “It’s all about me!”

Oh, we wouldn’t readily admit to this one. Not most of us. That is, until we try to square it with the gospels and with texts like ours this past Sunday from Romans 12:1-12. Then, we remember that God has designed the world to run pretty differently from this.

Life just doesn’t have to feel like that to me. I don’t feel like all the culture has to offer us is bad. I’m not paranoid enough, nor pessimistic enough, to view things that way. However, just like the good people in our lives, our culture is far from perfect. Some of what it offers us, our faith compels and challenges us to reject.

Better yet, our faith I think challenges us to model that there is an even better and healthier way. I think this lie today is one of those. In a world that tends to isolate and individualize, we as Christians have a chance to model that so much that is good in life can best be found in community. We as Christians have a chance to demonstrate that there is so much we have a responsibility to do, and that we can do those things far better together than we can alone.

We have a chance to demonstrate the very healthiest possibilities of friendship and commitment that are best found in sacred community and not in isolation. When life threatens, when life bears in on us, we have a chance to remind the world that upholding a tremendous load with help from others beats weathering life’s hardships alone every single time.

THE REV. DR. CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.