It’s a relaxed Sunday afternoon and I’m having coffee with Max Lucado in my favorite coffee shop. Widely considered as America’s favorite Christian author, Max Lucado has me in rapt attention in no time. My eyebrows are intently furrowed as he shares to me his thoughts. When he makes a point that I can relate to, I pause and contemplate, slowly nodding or touching my chin in reflection. I like that he seasons his stories with light-hearted humor that elicits more-than-polite smiles—yes, even chuckles—from me. I sip my blended mocha in between our interactions.
It is true—reading Max Lucado is very much like engaging a dear friend in intimate, animated, and honest conversation. His prose is known for being conversational, warm, and resonant, as it teems with profound spiritual insights. And it’s that same accessible style that makes the message of his latest book, It’s Not About Me (OMF Lit/Integrity), seem like a close friend’s sensible advice intimated over coffee. I’m glad I decided to head out to the coffee shop to pore over It’s Not About Me. No place would have been more conducive for this “conversation” with Max Lucado.
It’s Not About Me. If the title seems familiar, it’s because it bears a striking similarity to the very first sentence in Rick Warren’s The Purpose-Driven Life (OMF Lit/Zondervan). You will recall that Warren begins his phenomenal worldwide bestseller with the words, “It’s not about you.” Max candidly addresses this similarity in an interview published online (www.beliefnet.com): “Rick’s a pastor as well, and I think the books are complementary. I actually presented this material out at Saddleback before Rick’s book came out—he was on a writing sabbatical, finishing The Purpose Driven Life. And when we were out there, he commented to me, ‘You know, the first sentence of my new book is, ‘It’s not about you.’ Rick’s book is a tremendous practical tool…. Mine is more, I think, a devotional book, more a theological book.”
In the acknowledgment page, Max shares that the idea for his book was born out of a rather casual meeting with a friend whom he asked, “What has God been teaching you this year?” The friend answered, “God has been teaching me that: It’s not about me.” That last line stuck with Max and it eventually gave rise to reflections that first became a series of messages which he preached at his church in San Antonio, Texas. Later, the messages evolved into a book. In fact, Max admits that all his books come out of sermons. I suppose that’s part of the “secret” of his conversational and vivid writing.
Now a New York Times bestseller and 2005 Gold Medallion Book Award winner, It’s Not About Me challenges readers to make the shift of a lifetime: from a me-centered existence to the God-centered life. In chapter one, Max aptly introduces the idea of this radical re-centering by drawing upon a historical event, when Copernicus, in the 16th century, challenged the accepted (and celebrated) belief then that the Earth is the center of the universe and that the Sun and planets revolve around her and her residents. Clearly ahead of his time, Copernicus declared that the Sun, not the Earth is, in fact, the center of the solar system. Of course, centuries later we now know he was right—the Earth is not the center of the universe—and we realize how absurd it is to think otherwise. And then comes Max’s proposition: Could a Copernican shift be needed in the way we view God and ourselves? He writes, “Perhaps our place is not at the center of the universe. God does not exist to make a big deal out of us. We exist to make a big deal out of him. It’s not about you. It’s not about me. It’s all about him.” And just as in the time of Copernicus, this radical re-centering and re-ordering is not likely to be met with openness in a society highly advanced in its obsession and preoccupation with self.
With such chapter titles as “Divine Self-Promotion” and “My Struggles are About Him”, It’s Not About Me calls for a more biblical understanding and application of our rightful place in the cosmos, even as the redeemed children of God. As Christians today, yes, we declare that God is central and takes highest priority, and that we are subject to Him. But are we living according to our “demoted” status? Just listen to some of the “praise and worship” songs being sung in our churches today. The focus is subtly deflected from God—His holiness, beauty, and might—and neatly placed on our feelings, struggles, and thoughts about faith as we know it. Take note of our prayers; they aren’t very much different from the self-absorbed enumeration of young children writing to Santa Claus. When others scrutinize our individual and collective lives as believers, who will they find at the center?
Max Lucado makes a compelling case in his book for the preeminence of God’s glory. In an interview, Max asserts, “God’s glory is the big news of the Bible, and yet my [selfish] desire is that it would be all about me, but really it’s all about God’s glory.” The instructive stories that he tells of Moses and other personalities—biblical and otherwise—help crystallize the message: God rightfully asserts and deserves His place at the center. Our needs, feelings, pleasures, struggles will have to find their places in the periphery. And the beauty of it all is that God’s self-promotion, as Max calls it, results in our own good! Being off-center frees us from a complicated and dysfunctional existence and allows us to enjoy and participate in the proclamation of God’s glory. In Max’s words, “God loves us too much to make it all about us.”
Personally, reading It’s Not About Me was like being handed a measuring tape. Here is God: unimaginably powerful, eternally timeless, all-wise, and holy. Then there’s me: arthritic and occasionally asthmatic, very unlikely to reach 98 years, hardly well-read (much less wise), and sinful. But before I could actually uncoil the measuring tape and take note of the dimensional differences, Max makes sure that I realize and internalize the infinitely wide disparity, so that comparison is immediately rendered pointless, ridiculous even. And then it becomes much easier to see the wisdom in making it all about God and not about me. He is the glorious One. My job is to reflect His glory.
I work in Christian publishing. Being surrounded by books on a daily basis, it is not unusual that when I see a book, I automatically think of work. But when we decided to locally publish this particular book and after reading an excerpt, I remember making a mental note to squeeze it in my must-read list. I’m glad I got around to actually doing it. The one-and-a-half hours with Max Lucado’s It’s Not About Me was time well spent. Maybe you should try it. Go ahead, take an afternoon off from your busy schedule. Retreat to a quiet coffee shop corner and let God—not Max Lucado—speak to you. After all, it’s not about Max or his book. It’s all about God.
Written for the Book Encounter feature of Evangelicals Today (October issue).