It’s the rallying cry of our generation. Be true to our personalities. Stay in our natural grooves. Stick to our comfort zones. Whatever you’d like to call it. We trade this mantra like a recipe, a handy formula for success in personal interactions, handling of money, 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 well. I apologized, but you can bet that “myself” didn’t look so appealing to me in hindsight, which is always 20/20.
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 call that “being yourself”. Maybe it’s chronic fear masquerading as shyness, which serves to limit your reach in life. Perhaps it’s brutal honesty; we all know folks who secretly get a kick out of “cutting to the chase” and “saying what everyone else is thinking but doesn’t want to say”. Even if it turns out there’s good reason nobody says it.
But Jesus didn’t call us to be ourselves.
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)
And he inspires Paul to write:
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. Lots of it. Jesus is as cheerfully and unapologetically excited about your transformation as that personal trainer you’ll be thanking later, only Jesus’ work shows on the inside.
God has in mind a new Brandon. I want to discover him.
To do this, God will 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.
Have you noticed that we tend to treat our personality as a fixed thing, as if Christ has no access? The reality is, our personalities belong to him. Jesus made ourselves. He’s the one holding the patents here. If he wants to retask one of his creations into something it’s never been before, we’re powerless to stop him. Clay cannot hold up its shape to its potter in protest – “no, no, God, that’s not the way I’m formed!” A foolish statement. Who do you think formed you in the first place?
And he does ask us to step out of our comfort zones, especially if others are at stake. Trying a job with unfamiliar skills. Public speaking. Speaking less. Choosing to be kind and patient when everything within you is screaming the opposite. (That’s another comfort zone God is pulling me out of, kicking and screaming.)
But I do have power to ease the transformation, to fight him less and fight my pride more. Yes, it’ll be maddeningly convenient and frustrating. But perhaps he’ll be glorified by showing the world what he can do with me.
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 neither will everything be rosy and familiar our entire lives. Our personalities are forfeit where his glory, and the “continuing debt to love one another” (Romans 13:8), are concerned. There’s a new “yourself” God has made. If we’re going to “be ourselves”, let us be that.