“Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake, the same shall find it.” The swinging bachelor rejects this principle as he refuses familial responsibility and service, instead expending his energy on himself. As he advances, he feels the inevitable loneliness and lack of fulfillment that follow a life of hedonism. He desperately searches for a philosophy, political or religious affiliation, or charitable service by which to fill this void. He finds justification in knowing that he’s somehow contributing toward a better world. He surrounds himself with friends and tries to forge meaningful relationships. However, all this brings only a vague sense of fulfillment as he misses out on what might have been his greatest opportunity for influence. He has lost himself, but he hasn’t found himself.
The obedient young woman heeds the counsel of the Savior and is eager to tie a marital knot, settle down, and raise a family. Every day she gives of herself, and every night she lies down in sweet exhaustion. The fruits of her labor are good. She’s happy. However, upon seeing her peers who have chosen worldly paths, she compares her menial labor to their specialized, high level work, their advanced education and superior monetary worth. She sees how they’re making a difference in the world while she’s nothing more than a full time babysitter. With hardly any time or freedom for herself, she watches with horror as her dreams slip away with her fading youth. Meanwhile her children continue to run a muck, eating, screaming, pooping, and terrorizing her so-called life. In retaliation, she pleads, she shouts, she cries. The wrinkles begin to pop up like pimples. When she looks in the mirror, she sees the witch of her bedtime stories. She has lost herself, but she’s only partly found herself.
I’ve heard it said that Jesus Christ had no personal agenda. Though I don’t think this is true. Before he set forth on his three year ministry, as far we know, he spent his first thirty-one years learning, pondering, and praying. He spent long periods of time by himself in the wilderness. He woke up early to be with God. He sought refuge from crowds, climbed mountains, and went off to meditate when he learned of his beloved cousin’s death. He knew that he couldn’t help others unless he first helped himself. He certainly did have a personal agenda. It just so happened that his personal agenda was also his Father’s agenda.
Not running faster than we have strength means realizing that on any given day we can only do so much good, and when we push ourselves too hard, we’ll cross a line of diminishing returns. After that point, what would ordinarily be good becomes destructive. Neglecting our own needs will also diminish our capacity to help others. We’re better off doing less, letting go, and letting God. Thus, I think true enlightenment comes from a balance of outward service and inward development.