Me or we? It’s a question each of us faces and answers everyday as we say our prayers, make decisions, establish priorities, and live our lives. Do we live as insulated and isolated individuals or as a person connected to and interdependent with others? Me doesn’t just apply to a single individual. Me could be a group, a parish, a business. So me or we is also a choice made by churches and religions, political parties, corporations, and nations.
It’s a question Solomon faced when the Lord came to him in a dream and said, “Ask what I should give to you.” (1 Kings 3:5-12, Proper 12A) It sounds like a great deal. It sounds like God has signed and given Solomon a blank check. All he need do is fill in the amount.
Who hasn’t at one time or another wished for that? We’ve probably all played the if-you-could-have-anything-in-the-world game. But it’s not that simple. It’s not a game. It’s real life and real death. God’s question comes with a dilemma and Solomon’s answer will carry profound consequences. Solomon must decide between asking for himself or asking for the larger we, of which he is also a part.
That the question comes to him in the night, in a dream, suggests it comes from a deep interior place and that his answer will also come from that deep interior place. We are often blind to and unaware of the choice between me and we as we face the circumstances of our life and world. We tend to focus on what is happening around us rather than what is happening within us.
When disruptions occur, of whatever sort, something that throws our life off balance, something that challenges, troubles, or frightens us, we almost immediately begin thinking about a response. What will we do? How will we do it? In some way those are really secondary questions. The primary question is the awareness of others and the interior condition from which we will respond. That’s certainly how Jesus lived and what he taught. His was not a me me me life or teaching. So what about us? Is our awareness and response limited to me or is it a we awareness and response?
The answer to that question will likely determine the quality of our relationships and the extent to which we live in conflict. Look at the world today, read the news, reflect on your own relationships. If there is conflict there is probably also a me attitude. We see that in the Israel-Gaza war, the current persecution of Christians by Muslim extremists in Mosul, and the ongoing debate in our own country about citizens and immigrants.
It’s not just, however, global issues. The choice between me and we exists in marriages and families. It was at the center of this country’s most recent economic collapse. It’s a part of prejudice and discrimination as well as the hardened moral positions we so often take against another. Look for conflict and chances are you will see a me life to the exclusion of a we life.
I’m not suggesting that a we attitude fixes every conflict, ends every war, or settles every debate. It won’t. It’s not that simple. It does, however, change the way we approach each other in the midst of those conflicts, wars, and debates. It opens our minds, hearts, and wills to consider more than just ourselves. It offers new possibilities and creates options. It brings about an awareness of and concern for all, including ourselves.
Isn’t that what Solomon asked for? He sought an understanding mind to govern and care for God’s people. He wanted the ability to discern between good and evil. He recognized that a me attitude could not sustain the kingdom. He calls himself “a little child,” one who does “not know how to go out or come in.” His concern was for the kingdom not himself.
That shift from me to we is not easy. It means we must let go of the past patterns that no longer work, suspend judgments, and redirect our attention to a future that wants to emerge in and through us. That emerging future is the kingdom of heaven. The shift from me to we happens within us before it ever happens outside and around us, hence Solomon’s dream.
So what does that shift look like? What does a we life look like? In a person, it looks a lot like Jesus.
- A me life is one of power, domination, and control. A we life is one of vulnerability, intimacy, and self-giving.
- A me life is characterized by rhetoric, frenzied reaction, and isolation. A we life is characterized by silence, stillness, and presence.
- A me life is filled with doubt, cynicism, and fear. A we life is filled with faith, hope, and love.
- A me life clings tightly to the past. A we life embodies what might be.
- A me life draws lines that divide. A we life draws circles that encompass.
So many of today’s world circumstances and even our own life’s circumstances continue to remind us that a me attitude just doesn’t work. It never did. Why then do we continue living that way? People are being killed, homes destroyed, and relationships broken. The world is bleeding out and tears are flowing. Today’s me approach continues to crucify the we life Jesus lived and offered. Even that, however, cannot “separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (8:38-39). Jesus’ love is what enables, encourages, and teaches us to choose we over me. But we must choose. Every minute, every day, every situation, and every relationship hold the choice before us.
Solomon chose a we attitude. He asked for a listening heart, a heart with ears, a heart that would hear the pain of the world, the needs of the people, and the voice of God. He did not ask for himself long life, riches, or even the defeat of his enemy. And it pleased the Lord.
That’s not, however, where the story ends. If you read a couple of verses past today’s text you will read, “Then Solomon awoke; it had been a dream” (1 Kings 3:15). It was all a dream. It was a dream but it’s not just a dream.
That it was a dream doesn’t mean it wasn’t real and it doesn’t mean Solomon’s waking was the end of the dream. To the contrary, his awaking was the beginning of a new reality. He awoke to a new possibility, for himself and for the people. That reality and possibility would be realized every time Solomon choose we over me, every time he lived the dream.
Our lives and our world desperately need a new reality and a new possibility. God has entrusted each of us with Solomon’s dream and it is well past time to wake up and go live the dream. So what will it be? Will the dream come true? You tell me. Each of us decides. We or me?