Turning Toward Others
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Tired of self-focused, consumer-centric faith? Turn away from “me-ology,” says Jen Oshman, and learn the powerful theology of saying, “Enough about me!”
Turning Toward Others
Bob: Jesus said, “If anyone would be My follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” Jen Oshman thinks we’re not talking about death to self enough.
Jen: We can die in a million ways: it can be going across the street and loving our literal neighbor; it can be going across the city; it can be going across the ocean; it can be going across the bedroom to extend forgiveness to a spouse or to a child; it can be returning a blessing for a cursing in the workplace, in the church, wherever; but death to self is required for disciples of Jesus.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, October 13th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I’m Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. How would your marriage, your family—all of your relationships for that matter—how would they look different if you were committed to the idea of dying to self? We’ll explore that today with Jen Oshman. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. This was many years ago—John Piper was a guest on FamilyLife Today—and he was telling us about how, around their house, he would, from time to time, become whiny. There would be things that would—
Ann: It’s a man thing. [Laughter]
Dave: Honey, aren’t you glad you’re—she just threw me under the—she threw you under the bus too! [Laughter]
Ann: Oh, not you; sorry.
Dave: I was just going to say, “Aren’t you glad you’re not married to a whiner?”; but I guess that didn’t work.
Bob: He would grumble or complain about things. He said, “My family will break out in song when I do that.” He said, “There’s this worship chorus we sing at our church that—[singing] ‘It’s all about You, Jesus’; but they would change it to [singing] ‘It’s all about you, Johnny.’” [Laughter] They sang about him. I thought, “You could just pop out ‘Johnny’ and put in ‘Bobby’ or ‘Davy’—or any of us for that matter—because there are times in life, where we get so fixated/so focused on self, that we become unbearable to the people around us.”
Jen: That’s true.
Dave: In some ways, the culture celebrates it.
Dave: We’re supposed to do that; right?
Ann: Yes; we all have a voice now. We need to let our voice be heard—that’s what we’re hearing more and more.
Bob: —until you come across a book like Enough about Me. [Laughter] Then you go, “Maybe there is some correction that needs to happen here.”
Jen Oshman is joining us, again, on FamilyLife Today. Welcome back.
Jen: Thanks so much.
Bob: Jen is the author of that book, Enough about Me. She is a mom of four daughters, living in Parker, Colorado, with her husband, who is a pastor at a local church there. Jen and her husband spent 15 years on the mission field.
Tell us about how you guys got to the mission field/what you were doing there. Tell us about that whole chapter of your life.
Jen: Sure; well, when Mark and I got married, we both had a vision and a passion for the nations. We wanted to go overseas; it was something that we were unified in from day one. We went with Cadence International, which is a ministry to American military members overseas; and he pastored in Okinawa, Japan. Everybody that we ministered to was American military members but living in Japan. It was really sweet to be part of a local American church but on the other side of the world.
It was a community that was obviously—because they were military members—they were living for a bigger purpose and a bigger passion than sort of the average American dream or the average American life. They were people, who were excited about the gospel/excited about the mission and vision of the church, and people who needed—who were outside of the normal American life such that they were asking bigger questions. They were asking more about the meaning of life and what’s after life. It was a fruitful ministry; it was a blast. I mean, they were sort of like the best years of our life; we loved it.
But we also had a burden, and a desire, and just a passion to see the name of Christ exalted in the Czech Republic. It’s one of the most atheist nations on the planet—less than one half of one percent of Czech people know Jesus as their Lord and Savior—so a very spiritually dark context. That was something that just sort of hung over us all of our years there in Japan. We finally made the move and partnered with a local Czech church and went about church planting in Brno, Czech Republic.
Jen: That dream was cut short in God’s providence, and kindness, and sovereignty—even still, it feels a little bit painful to talk about it—we envisioned ourselves there forever and ever. My father was languishing with Alzheimer’s and dementia; we came back to take care of him. That’s what brought us back to Colorado, where we’re from.
Ann: What was that like, Jen, coming back? Was it a culture shock?
Jen: Yes; it really was. I mean, we had lived overseas a long time. We had taken a newborn with us, and then everybody else was born in Asia. It was disorienting for our kids. America was another foreign country for them, and it was disorienting for us because—and I will/just to confess this—like a lot of our identity was wrapped up in being overseas missionaries: “If we’re not on the mission field, then who are we? What value do we bring to the table, in terms of the church and the kingdom, and just being human beings?”
It was hard. There were just some normal, you know, growth that had to take place; culture shock that had to take place; but also some refining and pruning of the Lord, just revealing to us that we are His; we belong to Him; and it’s not about what we can conjure up and produce on our own. It’s about the story that He is writing that He is invited us to be a part of.
Bob: The heart of your book, Enough about Me, is that we have to understand that our identity exists apart from our activity—
Bob: —in order for our activity to make sense. Part of the challenge all of us run into is: “Who are we apart from our activity?”
Bob: The things that define us in everyday life are the things we do and the things we’re known for. Yet, if we don’t have a solid understanding of who we are, apart from those things—as children of God, beloved of God, accepted by God—then all of the stuff we do, if that’s what defines us—God can start to prune that, take it away, take you out of the Czech Republic, put you somewhere else, and say, “Now, who are you?”—right?
Jen: Yes, yes; that’s a good word. I think we are experiencing that in the middle of this coronavirus pandemic here in 2020. All of us do identify so strongly with the office that we go to in the morning, the teams that we are on, the clubs that we are a part of, the activities that we do—that’s who we are. Those have been stripped away in 2020. That has been painful but a blessing—also a gift of God and a gift of grace—as we are reminded: “No; I am not my activities; I am not what I produce. I am a child of God; I am His vessel to do with as He pleases.”
Bob: I want to know what you think about this—and really what everybody thinks about this—because as I’ve been pondering your book and thinking about this subject, I’m wondering, “Do men and women/do we do our sense of self differently?” If a woman is fixating on her identity and a man is fixating on his identity—and thinking about it wrongly—are our sin patterns going to be different? I know we’re talking, as my son likes to say, “genderalities”—these are gender-based generalities—but is our self-focus a different kind of self-focus, maybe?
Bob: I’m thinking of the Garden, where Adam’s passivity is matched with Eve’s—
Bob: —her controlling/her susceptibility to temptation. Was this sin achievement?—I mean, was she reaching out, thinking, “Ooh, I would like to be like God”? Was Adam like, “Okay; whatever”?—you know? I’m just trying to—I don’t know that I have an answer—maybe, our listeners will write us and tell us what the right answer is on all of this.
Dave: I think we all know the heart—or the center/the foundation—of it is sin or selfishness. I mean, enough of me is a selfless: “I’m not going to focus on me anymore.”
I remember—it just came to my mind—I got to play in this little golf charity outing, years ago. A former Detroit Lion player sent me a text—it’s classic for me—that said: “Hey, would you like to play in my golf outing?”—such and such a date. “We’d love to have you come.” My first response to the text—and he should have known this was coming—“Well, yes; I’m free that day, but how much is it?”—because I’m always about—“How much money is this going to cost me?”—even though it’s going to charity; right?
Drew texts back right away; he goes, “Oh, you’ll be a celebrity; celebrities are free.” I text back: “You and I both know I’m not a celebrity. What are you talking about?” [Laughter] He goes, “Well, here is how it works. A foursome pays $1,000 to play with a celebrity, and that’s how we raise the money.” He said, “I’m making you a celebrity, because you won’t come unless we do.” [Laughter] Long story short—I’m in; right?
I get to the golf course, and I’m looking around. There are real celebrities there. I’m like, “Oh boy! This is not going to go good when my foursome realizes it’s me.” [Laughter] They give you—you go to this group—so I walk up, and it was two couples; they weren’t married. Their spouses, actually, were working the tournament, but they were paired together. I walk up; I go, “Hey, I’m Dave Wilson. What’s your name?” They said their name. Then they all look at me and go, “Uh, why’d you introduce yourself?”
I go, “Oh, I didn’t tell you; I’m your celebrity.” They go, “Who are you?” I go, “Oh, well, I’m the chaplain of the Detroit Lions.” This dude looks at me, and he goes, “Oh great! [Laughter] So that means we can’t cuss, and we can’t drink,”—that’s what he said. [Laughter] I go, “Well, it gets better; I’m not a good golfer either.” [Laughter]
Here’s why I’m telling you this story. We go out golfing, and they are great people; right? We’re on like the tenth hole; and all of a sudden, this wife that was in the other cart walks up to me—we’re on the putting green—she goes, “Hey, John, here says you’re a marriage expert.” I go, “What?” “He says you’re writing a book on marriage, and you and your wife speak around the country on marriage; so you’re a marriage expert.” I go, “I’m no marriage expert.” She goes like this, “Well, I’ve got a marriage question.” I go, “What’s that?” She goes, “I’m in my second marriage; what’s the problem with marriage?”
Dave: I’m looking at her, like, “Oh boy!” And she meant it.
Dave: I’ll never forget it—it just came to my mind—I go, “Oh, well, that’s easy. I can answer that with one word.” She goes, “Really?! What’s that?” This is classic; I’ll never forget this—I go, “That word would be selfishness.” She goes, “You are so right! My first husband was so selfish!”—[Laughter]—that’s what she said. I mean, it was like you couldn’t have written this; right?
I just look at her, and I go, “I’m not talking about your first husband.” I went like this—I said, “I’m talking about you, and I’m talking about me.” She said to me, “Oh!” Then, later, she said, “I’ve never heard a pastor say he was selfish. You said you were selfish.” I go, “That’s the problem.”
I mean, even the answer—“Is a woman or a man different?”—“Yes; we’re different, I think, in the way it plays out; but at the heart of it, we think about me because we’re selfish; we’re sinners.
Dave: “Of course, we’re going to focus on that.”
Then if we look into me to find the answer for me, we’re never going to find it. That’s why your book is so true. It’s like, “We have to go vertical and say, ‘What does He say?’”
Bob: This is why you, in your book say, “Ultimately, the solution to this me-fixation that we have is a gospel realignment—
Bob: —“an understanding of the gospel that goes deeper than most of the superficial understandings of the gospel that we’re experiencing in contemporary American Christianity.”
Jen: Right; right. What I’m seeing across the church in the United States—let me be clear: I love the church—I have been a missionary for two decades, in women’s ministry; I’m a pastor’s wife/we planted a church. I love the bride of Christ, and I don’t mean to knock her; but I do mean to critique her; and that is we have been very self-focused in our churches as well. We’ve sort of come up with consumer-centric faith: “How can we fill the pews?” “How can we build a bigger building?” “How can we pay the pastor’s salary?”
We’re hearing sermons; we’re hearing lessons; we’re in Bible studies; we’re in groups; we’re in fellowships that are driving this consumer train/that are building this sort of institution of the church rather than the fellowship, and the body, and the family that I think Jesus intended in the 1st century.
My desire is that we—as a church, and we, as individuals—would take our eyes off ourselves—stop seeking to build our institutions/stop seeking to build our own little kingdom—and we would do what Jesus said, which is: “Take up your cross and follow Me.” Whoever would follow Jesus would, then, come and die. That is all over the Word of God, and we don’t talk about it very often. That is—the subtitle of my book is Find Lasting Joy in the Age of Self—that counterintuitively—counter to our flesh/counter to our culture—that is where joy is found—is when we die to ourselves.
Dave: What does that look like?—as you say, very specifically, in the book, “Lasting joy is found in picking up your cross.” Explain that; what does that mean?
Jen: Yes; the Scriptures are full of commands, and admonishments, and invitations, and encouragements to die to ourselves. It can be a spectrum. We can’t be putting pastors and missionaries on some sort of pedestal and saying, “They’re really dying to themselves.” That’s not true; in Acts 17, the Lord is clear that He has put us in the times and places that we are for a reason. It is so that we would seek Him and find Him.
I’m in America right now for a reason, and so are you. Everybody listening—wherever they are all over the world—it’s not a mistake that the Lord would have each of the listeners where they are in 2020 in this moment so that we’ll seek God and find Him. We can die in a million ways: it could be going across the street and loving our literal neighbor; it can be going across the city; it could be going across the ocean; it could be going across the bedroom to extend forgiveness to a spouse or to a child; but death to self is required for disciples of Jesus.
Bob: When I wrote my book, Love Like You Mean It, one of the discoveries for me/one of the things that I had to really wrap my head around is that sacrificial, self-giving love is the key to the kind of fulfilling joy-filled relationship that God designs for us. That’s the counterintuitive, paradoxical nature of the gospel—that the first are last and the last are first—that everything is upside down: “If you want to be great, be a servant,” “If you sacrifice yourself and die to self, you will find life and joy and fulfillment.”
We just don’t think—“No; sacrifice to self is where you find despair. It’s where you find—it’s drudgery. Who wants to sacrifice?” God says, “Do this and watch joy explode in your life.”
Ann: Several years ago, I met a young woman; and I heard that she had tried to take her life several times. She was 19 years old. I said to her, “If you ever want to talk, I would be so happy to sit down and just talk to you.” I was shocked that the next day she called me and asked if she could come over. She came over; she was telling me about how she had tried to take her life several times. She really has struggled with depression and the suicide has been on her mind constantly.
She was a D1 soccer player—
Ann: —who was injured; and her career was now on hold. That had been her life. I asked her, “Tell me who you are.” She said, “I only know who I used to be. I used to be a soccer player, and my life used to have meaning.” I said, “That’s what you do; who are you?” She said, “I have no idea.”
I explained the gospel to her; and I said, “What Jesus wants is your life—all of you/everything—to lay it down, because He’s the One that created you,” and “He is the One who knows you.” She said, “I can’t give all of that; I can’t surrender that. I can’t die to myself, because it sounds so wrong.” Yet, she was trying to die, herself.
The next day, she called me again and said, “Can I talk again?” I said, “Yes.” She kind of went through the thing she was struggling with about God. Then she goes, “Okay; I can’t like—to give myself to God sounds like the scariest thing in the world.” I said, “It is—
Ann: —“it is, because you really don’t know what He has in store; but He’s the One who made you. To discover who He is, is to discover who you are.” The next day she calls me—she goes, “I did it. I just want you to know I did it.”
It’s so interesting—because in your book, you talk about how suicide is on the rise more than ever.
Jen: Right; I think it is because we are looking within. We don’t know who we are; because we don’t know who made us, and how He made us, and for what purpose. We’re living for this temporary life that is fragile and broken. We cannot be dependent/we cannot identify with the things that we do. We must lose ourselves and identify with Christ; right? We are dead and raised to life with Christ, and that’s where joy is found.
Dave: It’s one of the scariest things, though.
Jen: It is; it totally is.
Dave: We were having dinner last week with a couple, and this husband was saying he has a big decision to make. He was getting some counsel from a friend. He’s going through the pros and cons of the: “Should I stay here?” “Should I do this?”
His friend said, “Do you know what you signed up for when you gave your life to Christ?” Craig is like, “I think so.” He goes, “Here is what you signed up for”; and he slips a piece of paper over that’s blank.
Dave: He said, “You signed on the bottom to a blank sheet.
Jen: That’s good.
Dave: “That’s all you need to know. God is in control of what’s on that paper, and you don’t know; but you know who is. That’s losing your life—
Dave: —“to an unknown future. Are you willing to sacrifice that?” Craig is like, “Yes; I’m in.” That’s what we did, but it’s scary.
Jen: It’s initially scary,—
Jen: —but it’s sustaining.
Jen: You know that moment, where you go, “Okay; I surrender; I belong to You—blank sheet of paper—whatever You want to do.” That is scary; but it’s sustaining, because we know who He is. He’s the God who raised from the dead. He conquered sin and death, and He’s coming again.
Dave: Preach it.
Jen: We will reign with Him forever—you know?—when it’s the new heaven and the new earth. Our future is certain, and this is the sustainable way to live. In a culture, and in a place and a time, where things are broken and fallen, and disappoint, and hurt and betray, our God reigns; and He will help us.
Ann: Talk about your daughters.
Jen: Okay. [Laughter]
Ann: Like, how do you talk to them? What are you saying to them? Tell us about them of what you would say as you are teaching them: “This is who you are.”
Jen: Well, I have four daughters; so the ones that are at home are 13, 15, and 17. Three girls, at home, are teenagers. One, who is 23—we adopted her from Thailand when she was 12—now, she lives in North Carolina with her husband, who is in the Army. They actually have a [daughter]; I’m actually a grandmother. Lots of girls in our life. My husband loves to say the joke that he’s in full-time women’s ministry—[Laughter]—which he is and so am I.
But it is a joy; raising these daughters has been a joy; but also scary, just such a thrilling and terrifying responsibility before the Lord. We tell them all the time—I mean, we actually wrote it out: the Oshman Family Manifesto—my husband wrote it out, years ago; we go back to it all the time.
Basically, our mission statement/our vision statement, as parents, is we would just love for our children—if God would allow—that our children would know Him and love Him more than anything else or anyone else in the whole world. Whatever He has called them to, or gifted them to, or asked them to do—it doesn’t matter so much—they can go work at the neighborhood restaurant; they can be stay-at-home moms; they can be the CEO of a bank; they can be missionaries; they can be doctors—that’s not really it for us. What is it for us is that they would know their Maker, and they would cherish their Savior.
I think whatever life brings them, then—whatever sickness, whatever failure, whatever sin that they actually might fall into or commit themselves, whatever shame comes upon them—all of those things are small compared to their great God, who loves them infinitely without condition, beyond comprehension. My desire is that they would know Him, and love Him, and walk with Him. We’re always trying to put that before them and just have a culture and an ethos of grace in our home.
Ann: As you coach other parents, is that what you would say?
Jen: Yes; I mean, I praise the Lord—neither my husband nor I were raised in Christian homes—but my husband had an amazing mentor/his pastor Keita, when he was a young adult, who really understood grace. He just showered my husband in grace all the time, so my husband had this tremendous foundation of grace—just understanding the gospel—that: “I am not the sum total of my work; I’m not the sum of my sins; I’m not the sum of what I can produce. I am in Christ.”
Dave: I think what you’re hitting at is so critical because, well, if it isn’t just about me—and I’ve got to go vertical to find out who I am—and it won’t be about me anymore; it’s about Him, I’ve really got to know Him.
Dave: It won’t be about you anymore. You will discover He is truly enough; you’ll know Him well enough to be confident in that.
Bob: What if there were book clubs—of women, guys, mothers, daughters, fathers, sons—who were absorbing this message: “Enough about me. Let’s talk about God; let’s talk about His agenda; let’s talk about His purposes. Let’s refocus what’s at the center of our lives.”
We’ve all seen that classic illustration that says, “Who is on the throne?”—right?—you on the throne; God on the throne. That’s something that we’re dealing with every day of our lives: “Who is on the throne at this moment?” “Who is on the throne in this event/in this circumstance?” “Who’s priorities do I care most about?” Your book, Enough about Me, is pointing us away from that self-fixated orientation.
We’re so glad you came and talked with us about this. I think our listeners have gotten the needed wheel alignment from this conversation. Thank you.
Jen: Awesome. Praise God. Thank you.
Bob: I would encourage listeners to get a copy of your book, Enough about Me: Finding Lasting Joy in the Age of Self. Go through this with a friend. If you’re able to do some kind of small group or book club right now, have everybody go through this book together. Maybe, read through parts of it together, as a family. This issue is critical to our spiritual growth.
Again, the title of the book is Enough about Me: Finding Lasting Joy in the Age of Self by Jen Oshman. You can order the book from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call to order at 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY,” to get a copy of Jen’s book.
Now, we have recently updated and upgraded the FamilyLife Today app, which is available in your app store. David Robbins, who is the president of FamilyLife®, is here to talk about it. We’re pretty excited about this, David.
David: Yes, Bob; I’ve got something I’ve been wanting to talk about for a while, because one of the things we’ve always been committed to, at FamilyLife, is connecting with families—knowing their needs—being able to pray for people in their hurts and in their joys. In July, my inbox was flooded with over 2300 prayer requests after an email I sent out, asking, “How can we pray for you?” It was a privilege for Meg, and myself, and our team, to pray for you and your families.
It motivated me, and it motivated our teams at FamilyLife to continue to trust God to do more to help families. We want to be available 24/7; that’s why we have launched this new app. We got to work. We are very excited to bring you new content/great content like FamilyLife Today and so many other resources that are available to you at the click of a button.
I had a listener, named Greg, recently email me and said, “We’ve been starting to tune into the app to catch up on the shows we’ve missed on the radio. It helped give us hope. It’s like drinking a cup of cool water on a warm day; so refreshing.” Go to your app store, search for the FamilyLife app, and download it from there. We look forward to continue to journey with you in the ways you are growing.
Bob: Yes; thank you, David.
Now, tomorrow, we want to talk about the challenges black parents are facing, trying to raise black children in our current cultural moment. Jasmine Holmes is going to join us to talk about a book she’s written called Mother to Son, where she is grappling with some of these issues. We’ll talk with her about it tomorrow. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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