It’s the rallying cry of our generation. The idea is that our choices will prove positive as long as we stay in our natural groove, or personal comfort zone, or whatever you’d like to call it. We trade this mantra like a recipe, a handy formula for success in interviews, dating, choice of college major, what have you. Feels pretty affirming.
This last weekend, I was myself. I made a joke at someone else’s expense. It was an outgrowth of my teasing sense of humor, and it wasn’t taken very well. I apologized, but you can bet that “myself” didn’t look so appealing to me in hindsight, which is always 20/20.
It left me with an ominous question. Just how much sin do we keep under the umbrella of “being ourselves”?
Perhaps you’re the type to dominate every meeting or conversation, or send the steak back with the overworked waitress three times until it’s exactly right. Some folks would absolutely call this “being yourself”. Maybe it’s chronic fear masquerading as shyness, which serves to limit your reach in life. Perhaps it’s simply brutal honesty; we all know folks who get a secret kick out of “cutting to the chase” and “saying what everyone else is thinking”, even if tramples someone’s feelings underfoot.
And running rampant in today’s world is that whatever happens, we need to stay true to ourselves.
But Jesus didn’t call us to be ourselves. He called us to be him.
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-23)
I’m sorry if I’m the first to tell you this, but when we signed up for Christianity, we signed up for change. A lot of it. Personal transformation: Jesus is as cheerfully and unrepentantly excited about it as that personal trainer you’ll be thanking later. Only Jesus’ work shows on the inside. And he can accomplish it while being “gentle and humble in heart”.
God has in mind a new Brandon. I want to discover him.
Even if you consider “be yourself” to simply mean staying true to your natural personality, have you noticed that we tend to treat our personality as a fixed thing, as if Christ has no access? He’s got the right to change whatever he likes. And he does ask us to step out of our comfort zones, especially if others are at stake.
God will even put us in situations that run contrary to how we’re made. He called me to teach for three years in a small town in the middle of nowhere, about as non-ideal for a homebody as you could imagine. I gave serious thought to shying away under the guise of “not a good fit”. Moses tried that (Exodus 4); he didn’t seem to see himself as a good speaker. Yet he and I both went, and it worked. Instead of shrivelling and dying, we changed. We expanded. And though I’m still waiting to see it, I do believe God will work through my offerings eventually.
Trying a job with unfamiliar skills. Public speaking. Speaking less. Can you see how our willingness in all things gets blurred when we insist on “being ourselves”? Jesus made ourselves. He is the one with all the patents here. If he wants to retask one of his creations into something it’s never been before, I’m powerless to stop him. But I do have power to ease the transformation, to fight him less and fight my pride more. Perhaps he’ll be glorified by showing the world what he can do. Maybe that’s the point.
If this sounds preachy, well, I guess I’m just being myself.
God might not call every engineer to lifelong painting, or every outspoken leader to a monastery. But he will . Our personalities are forfeit where his glory, and the “continuing debt to love one another” (Romans 13:8), are concerned. If that means stepping out of “ourselves” for a moment, then, well, I think we know where our bread is buttered.
And we can only find pasture if we listen to the Shepherd’s voice. There is always immense life to be found in that listening. Even though his paths sometimes seem frustrating, there is a fountain at the end of each one.
There’s a new “yourself” God has made. If we’re going to “be ourselves”, let us be that.