The Inner Ring
C.S. Lewis talked about wanting to be part of the Inner Ring. “I believe that in all men’s lives at certain periods, and in many men’s lives at all periods…one of the most dominant elements is the desire to be inside the local Ring and the terror of being left outside.” This causes all kinds of problems, and can end up driving one’s life. He said:
My main purpose in this address is simply to convince you that this desire is one of the great permanent mainsprings of human action. It is one of the factors which go to make up the world as we know it…Unless you take measures to prevent it, this desire is going to be one of the chief motives of your life, from the first day on which you enter your profession until the day when you are too old to care…The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it.
I was thinking of the Inner Ring this week as I attended a conference. There are definitely Rings: the few people on the stage, followed by decision-makers. Then you have the authors, well-known pastors, and even bloggers.
These people may not be part of the Inner Ring that interests you, but don’t get to smug. You probably have your own Inner Ring too.
When you are around people who are part of that Ring, it’s easy to feel insecurity, pride, and discouragement. You feel good when you’re acknowledged and appreciated; you feel bad when you are excluded. You feel driven to be part of the Inner Ring.
Lewis reminds us that there is no “inside” that is worth reaching. “The true road lies in quite another direction,” he writes.
Ultimately, the inner ring becomes another form of idolatry, running completely contrary to the direction of the gospel and all that Christ has taught. His followers are already part of the only Inner Ring that matters.
So here’s what we may need to do with this desire to be part of the Inner Ring:
- Identify the idolatrous part of this desire and dethrone the idol by worship;
- Identify the legitimate part of this desire and see how it is met through the gospel;
- Appreciate those in the Inner Ring without worshiping them;
- Take their word for it that they are quite human, despite being used in a unique way;
- Celebrate how God is using others even if he is not using us in the same way;
- Meditate on the teaching of Jesus about seeking greatness for oneself, on servanthood, and on the last being first.
Anyone else got ideas?