Increase and Decrease
Doing a PhD can get into your head. Sometimes I think that what I am doing is amazing. Other times I think that what I am doing isn't all that interesting, and I will be happy just to pass the viva at the end of all this. Pretty much every day is a rollercoaster of highs and lows. Pretty much everyday I am tempted to think that what I do will change the world. Pretty much everyday I am ready to give up and move on.
Don't get me wrong. I love what I am doing. I love where this process will end and the doors that it could possibly open. I love how doing this PhD is forming me and sharpening my gifts, clarifying my calling. Yet, there is that voice in the back of my head that can often get me to think that this is really important. I write something and I hear myself saying, "Yes, now that is what people need to hear. They need to hear me say that. People really need ME."
I am pretty sure I am not alone in this. I think we all have that voice in the back of our heads saying that people in this world really need me and my talents. In many ways, this is true. We do need each other. We need to speak truth into each other's life. Our families need us. Our friends need us. If we are in ministry, the ministry needs us. However, it is easy to think that I am the key to success. I will determine the success or failure of those around us. My talents, my experience, my personality is at the center of everyone else's fate.
Yet, into this world walked John the Baptist. If anyone had a magnetic personality, it was him (And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. - Mark 1:5). If anyone had an effective preaching ministry, it was him (And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. - Luke 3:3). If anyone could believe that he was really important for his cause, it was him (I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John. - Luke 7:28). Nevertheless, that's not how John responds at the end of his life. When the question is put to him if he is the Messiah. John's response is 'no'. Not only that, John goes so far as to say:
John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.” - John 3:27–30
I am constantly reminded of these words from John, 'He must increase, but I must decrease.' These words echo in my ears as I write my thesis. These words echo in my ears as I prepare to preach sermons or teach in the church. These words echo in my ears as I raise Calvin or walk with Taryn. These words echo in my ears as I talk with friends.
Our job must be to make much of Jesus. He must increase and we must decrease. Like the best man at a wedding, our job is point everyone to the groom and make him look good. This is my prayer for today, that he would increase and I would decrease.