Posted by: geolocke | 2016/03/03

Being Third

In our local chapter of Madonna House, there is a sign painted on the wall above their back door that says: “I Am Third“. When I asked about it, I was told that when Jesus was asked “what is the greatest Commandment?”, he replied: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Matt 22:37-40) They then explained to me that if you love God first, and love neighbor second, then that places you third.

Since that day many years ago I have tried to remember those words as I try to live my life according to the Gospel message of Christ. I try to remember to always offer up thanks to God for all that happens to me (good or bad) or for all that is accomplished through my actions, but sometimes I forget. I try to remember to place the well-being of others before my own desires or designs, and often I fail. but perhaps the hardest lesson I am still having to learn is how to accept being third when I fail at placing God first and neighbor second.

I grew up rarely asking for help from anyone, not for school, not for work, not in need or want. I had an attitude that I would succeed or fail in whatever I was trying to accomplish on my own merits. That started to change (did change) when I married and suddenly I found myself part of a wonderful union with another. Living a shared life with another in complete union of bodies, minds and lives does not allow for the “I” to completely go it alone anymore. And so I adapted my attitude appropriately for personal matters, but in matters of work and the world outside the family, it was still all about being self-sufficient.

That term, self-sufficient, is really a silly notion because on a planet of billions of other “selves” no one can truly be “self-sufficient.” And that is where my struggle of learning how to be third comes in. As I see it, learning to place God first and neighbor second are the easiest parts of this equation because with enough focus, with enough trial and error, I will eventually get in the habit of living that way. But to truly learn being third, I have to give up this notion of being self-sufficient when I *do fail*  at placing God first and neighbor second (as surely I will again). I need to learn to not try to deal with it on my own, but asking for help from others and knowing that it is ok to do so because it’s actually a blessing.

That might be the greatest lesson of all I’ve learned about being third. When I truly accept the fact that I am third, then when I fail miserably at placing God first and my neighbor second; when I break down my own defenses and ask  someone else for help, or to pray for me, then I am allowing that other person to fulfill their place as being third, because they are now placing me, their neighbor, as their second. In this manner we are both fulfilled and blessed, and we can both give the Glory back to God.

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