Self on the Shelf

Self on the Shelf

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No, it’s not a typo.

My husband and I are blessed to be part of a group of six couples studying Love & Respect, a book and video series by Dr. Emerson and Sarah Eggerichs. This week, one of the statements that jumped out at us was, “It’s not about my spouse, it’s about Christ in me.” We talked about putting our spouse’s needs before our own, loving and respecting him or her not because of what they deserve but because we choose to love that person the way Christ loves us. And then one of the men said, “Instead of elf on the shelf, it should be self on the shelf!”

Wow. We all laughed…and then let the truth of that statement sink in.

Most of us have matured past the gimme-gimmes of childhood and genuinely believe it is more blessed to give than to receive…at least when it comes to presents. But do we embrace the same selflessness when we’re talking about giving the gift of time? Are we generous with our Christmas presence? I confess I can get a little grinchy when something, or more likely, someone, wants some of the time I’ve set aside for holiday prep. It’s especially humbling to admit to being annoyed when the SomeOne who wants a bit of my time and focused presence is the One whose birthday I say I’m prepping for. When time alone with our Lord feels like a chore or an interruption, it’s a good sign we need to put self on the shelf.

But what, exactly does shelf life look like?

I’ve been honored (that might be stretching it a bit!) to take part in the Elf on the Shelf tradition with some of our grandkids. It involves 1.) Setting a timer for about 9 p.m.–when the kiddos are sleeping and I’m still awake enough to think, and 2.) coming up with a sneaky place  to hide the little bendy guy who never changes out of his red jammies. #1 Rule: Do not leave this task for the morning. Inevitably, you will be awakened by the pitter-patter of little feet and disappointed cries because Pippin is in the exact same spot he was in yesterday. Then you have to scramble to come up with not only a good hiding place, but also a believable excuse–“Maybe he got caught in traffic at the North Pole.”

Bear with me for a minute while I draw some parallels here. If I’m going to commit to living more selflessly tomorrow, I better make a plan tonight. I need to think ahead about how I’m going to spend time in prayer to set aside pride and selfishness before the pitter-patter of my to-do list invades my morning. Do I really want to find myself needing an excuse for not being kinder, more patient, more loving, more giving…more selfless? Do I really want to make excuses for letting life get in the way of emptying myself of myself and asking my Lord to fill my heart with His desires rather than mine? And when I’ve surrendered my right to self, God can freely “interrupt” my day–because it’s not really mine anyway.

…to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,  and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24

What difference would you see in your life if you started each day with self on the shelf?


Becky Melby About Becky Melby

Wisconsin resident Becky Melby is the author of the Lost Sanctuary Series and a dozen other contemporary fiction titles. Married for 43 years, mother of four, grandmother to fifteen, Becky thrives on writing, reading, camping, rides on the back of a silver Gold Wing, and time with family. Connect with her at her website or Facebook.


  1. Wonderful reminder, Becky ! Thank you for this

  2. I love this parallel, Becky! We have created our own reindeer on the shelf at our house, and I was curious to see where your analogy would lead! This is so true…We honor God when we prepare for our time with him in advance!

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