Abundant Living Vol. XX, Issue 26

“Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves!  Should not shepherds take care of the flock?” – Ezekiel 34:2 

It was to the “Me” generation of his own time that the Prophet Ezekiel was sent to address, warning the Israelites that their self-centeredness and lack of concern for others was going to bring them down, leading specifically to seventy long years of captivity in Babylonia, until such time that eventually “I will cleanse you from all your impurities and . . . I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you.”  (Ezekiel 36:24,26)

Somehow the message of Ezekiel did not sink in with me when I was eighteen years old.  At that point I was convinced my one marching order in adult life was to become successful; successful, that is, by the world’s definition of success – professional career, money, influence, all those sorts of things that offer status, bragging rights, and a big ego.  Success was all about me, I thought, about my accomplishments and all the rewards that were attached, so typical of the “Me” generation mindset of own time.

Imagine my dismay when success didn’t come like I believed it should.  Oh, it did eventually, but not before suffering some years in exile, struggling, wondering what I was doing wrong, failing (it felt like) rather than succeeding.  Had I misread the memo on success, I wondered, skimming over something essential?  Ezekiel’s message perhaps? “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves!  Should not shepherds take care of the flock?”  Only then did I begin to be cleansed of impurities and gain a new heart and a new spirit.  Soon, almost miraculously, success began to happen.

No one has ever expressed this better than Dr. Viktor Frankl, author of the classic Man’s Search for Meaning.  “Don’t aim at success,” he says, “The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it.  For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.  Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success; you have to let it happen by not caring about it.” . . . . Woe to those who only take care of themselves!  But to those whose deepest desire is the well-being of others, success – not the world’s version, but the truest forms of it – may well catch you by surprise.  It did me.

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