"Make no mistake: if you are really going to try to meet all the demands made on the natural self, it will not have enough left over to live on. The more you obey your conscience, the more your conscience will demand of you. And your natural self, which is thus being starved and hampered and worried at every turn, will get angrier and angrier.
“In the end, you will either give up trying to be good, or else become one of those people who, as they say, "live for others" but always in a discontented, grumbling way - always wondering why others do not notice more and always making a martyr of yourself. And once you have become that you will be a far greater pest to anyone who has to live with you than you would have been if you had remained frankly selfish.
"In a battle, or in mountain climbing, there is often one thing which it takes a lot of pluck to do; but it is also, in the long run, the safest thing to do. If you funk it, you will find yourself, hours later, in far worse danger. The cowardly thing is also the most dangerous thing.
“It is like that here. The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self - all your wishes and precautions - to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call "ourselves," to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be "good." We are all trying to let our mind and heart go their own way - centered on money or pleasure or ambition - and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly.
And that is exactly what Christ warned us you could not do."
- C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
The first portion of this passage, referring to being a “pest,” unfortunately reminds me of myself. In high school and the beginning of college I was the leader of the Setup Team at Crossroads. I’d get up early on Sunday mornings and work with a few other guys (for a while only Jesse) to get everything set up for the church services. This often meant I could not stay up or out on Saturday nights as much as I wanted to. And boy did I let my friends hear about it.
I never realized how much I whined about it until my friend Michael brought it to my attention. I don’t remember exactly what he said but I remember being a bit shamed when he would come to help and I as the “leader” of the team would be whining about how other people weren’t helping. Later, when Michael led the Setup team for a different ministry venture I was the overall leader for, one of his rules was: “Do not whine about other people not helping. Help cheerfully, or don’t help at all.” I know he did not intend it as any sort of message to me, but I also knew he made that rule after learning from the misery of working with a whiner such as myself.
I was whining because I was serving for the wrong reasons. I was trying to do what I was supposed to do, to do a good thing, and still hope I had some time and energy leftover to do what I really wanted. In reality what I needed was to let God change my heart and let the Gospel inspire my service. Instead I was serving because it was “the right thing to do” and I appreciated the pats on the back it got me.
Good thing I’m not like that anymore, ever, with anything.