As I sat daydreaming about a life situation of late I veered into thinking about “the two young princes”. One was eager to take the sword, lusted after his seat on the throne and scoffed at those who came before him. The other relished in the wisdom of his teacher, humbly knew he was not ready for the throne, but valiantly and courageously took the sword when the moment was right to save the kingdom.
You can imagine which one I obviously wanted to be, who wouldn’t? The protagonist always wins the heart of the audience. . .but rarely are we actually the protagonist.
But the irony of this story is not which prince I was daydreaming about being, it’s that I was seeing myself as royalty at all.
As I was praying about what God might be teaching me in this moment, I realized the issue isn’t if I would “take the sword” before I was ready. The issue is that I was seeing myself as a prince, as royalty, as someone who was going to rightfully inherit the throne to a pretty, comfortable kingdom. Instead of seeing myself as "the pauper the Prince had saved", instead of seeing myself as the servant of the King, instead of seeing myself as the Royal’s attendant, the cook, even the teacher or the soldier to protect the royal family. . .I made myself to be the head honcho, the one in charge, the one who deserves the royal throne that all may bow down to my name.
God have mercy on my soul.
It’s the opposite of how Jesus would think; the opposite of how He actually did think. Though Jesus was in the form of God, He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped but instead made himself nothing. He took on the form of a servant (Phil 2:6-7). Why am I striving to be a prince when the perfect God of all creation saved the world by becoming a servant himself?
I know the answer. Because it hurts—it’s hard! It’s uncomfortable. It’s not always fun and it hardly ever involves eye-catching or name-dropping. It’s where hands get dirty and you give your shoes away. It’s where no one knows your name and your body aches with pains of carrying the wounded and the broken. We strive to not be servants because we’re afraid that “dying to self” may mean suffocation and destruction. It means we are saying that God is not trustworthy or worship worthy, as if He is taking our spot. Oh the audacity we function in when we see ourselves as the prince. . .
To be clear, this is not a call to give your money away, monasticism, to make sure no one knows your name or not do what we sometimes (maybe foolishly) see as "big things". But it is a call to have a sober-holy-servant attitude, which was the same attitude Jesus had as He went to the cross (Phil 2:5). It's not a matter of what we are doing so much as how we are viewing ourselves as we do it. Jesus had a humble attitude not by emptying himself for emptying sake, but emptying himself for my sake.
This is where serious heart search comes in to play. I wrote a piece a while back about accomplishing dreams, being the next big thing and changing the world. The problem is that our desire to “change the world” (in whatever form that looks like for you) often trumps our desire to be like Christ (a holy servant). Jesus didn’t change the world; he made the world and then came to save the world. And he did it by taking on the form of a servant, not becoming the good-looking, gold-having, power-holding form of a prince on earth. We may say we want to serve others, but when push comes to shove. . .
Are you willing to give up your spot for someone else in the workplace?
Are you willing to be faithful behind the scenes instead of getting name recognition?
Do you listen well to other people?
Do you daydream about that job promotion or perhaps walking down the aisle with that spouse who would make you look good?
Are you willing to be flexible when it is uncomfortable for you?
Are you willing to be the first in a situation to ask forgiveness when the other person sinned against you as well? Or do you ask forgiveness first in order to show how great you are?
So here are the questions I asked myself:
1. Where am I haughtily acting as if I’m royalty, instead of the poor, sinner-pauper that I am?
2. Once I identify those areas, what (in those particular areas) am I lusting after? May it be power, control or pretty reputation?
3. If I have such a high view of myself, then I have a low view of God. What characteristics of God have I been ignoring or disbelieving as I daydream about my princely ways?
4. Next step: repentance. Am I willing to acknowledge these sins before God and ask other’s for help?
5. Change: What places do I need to be more faithful in the day to day monotony of life for God's glory?
If I see myself as the prince who saves the day, then I also see myself as not needing the gospel-giving Savior who died in my place. But if I live in reality and admit my pauper status, then I’m able to serve that gospel-giving Savior with joy, with contentment, and without anxiety when things don’t go “my way.” I get to live with right expectations of myself and of my Savior. It takes the pressure off for me to perform as prince and puts the praise where it’s due: on Jesus.
Here’s the thing: my husband wanted to remind me that I am royalty since I am a part of the family of God. Even if I am a daughter of the King, it doesn’t entitle me to his glory and praise. Jesus served us by becoming like us so that he could say, “I understand,” not so that I can think I am powerful and almighty. God has mercy on my soul because that’s the kind of kingdom-leader he is. He is the kind of leader who gives forgiveness, offers hope and helps me change to be a Jesus-like pauper, which is infinitely better than a pompous, play-like prince.
Rebekah Hannah is a biblical counselor at The Grace Center for Biblical Counseling in Jacksonville, Florida. She is married to Andrew and has three daughters.