We began a discussion on how difficult it is to learn who we are, who we are meant to be. Part of what we are called to do in »Christ is to complete good works, things that God has already taken the time to put into place and line up so that we can walk into a situation that is ripe for fulfilling what God has asked us to do (see Ephesians 2:10).
But how do we figure out how we fit into those pictures? If God is putting together a grand story that we each have a role in, what does it take to unravel the clues to what it is? It’s like searching for buried treasure, but not only are we often without an easy map to follow, we’re sometimes unclear about what the treasure looks like.
There are just a few things that keep us from figuring out who we are. If we can get past them, there is little that can stop us from launching ahead. Here are a few things that come to mind:
1) We’re worried about what we think we should be.
If we make it to church every Sunday for three years, we will have heard 156 sermons on how to live for Christ. For one year is just 52 ways to improve our Christian life. Our checklists for improvement grow much faster than we can master them. Isn’t any wonder that we walk around with our heads down, feeling defeated or unspiritual, wondering why we bother to live for Christ in the first place?
Personal Note: As a pastor/teacher, I’ve decided that the way I communicate to people when I take a pulpit of my own is very important. Some pastors pride themselves in developing new concepts and material week after week. If we do that, we’ve given our people six days to master an element of life before dropping another on them. If instead we take some time to develop and unpack a series of messages on one topic, how much more apt are our people to listen, learn and live their lives differently in that one aspect?
2) We’re worried about what others think we should be.
Unfortunately, there are those around us whose checklists are also growing, and some of them have a tendency to evaluate us on a regular basis. Are there basics? Sure. Are they universal? Not all of them. Shouldn’t we want our fellow Christians to grow? Absolutely; but by whose standards, and by which timetable? God knows best, and He has appointed pastors and elders to help prune and fertilize the vineyard. We shouldn’t be taking it upon ourselves to do that in their place.
And what if we’re the one being evaluated? I had a situation in a worship practice I was leading a few weeks back. One young woman was embarrassed, disheartened, and angered by comments she overheard other singers making, and she took them personally to herself. After the practice I took her aside and told her that there is only one voice she needs to listen in such a setting, and that is the word of the worship leader. No one else’s voice matters; it doesn’t matter who they are or what is being said.
Now, does God use men and women to speak into our lives? He sure does, and we have to be careful to allow Him to use them in our lives. But if they ever come contrary to His voice in our lives, then He wins out. Sometimes we have to swallow our pride and listen to those around us. And sometimes they have to keep their mouths shut and let God do the work. It’s a fine line, and erring on the side of grace is the answer. (Not easy, but true.) The best response is to honestly hear what is being said and take it to the Lord in prayer. Maybe to say something like, “Thank you for your words. I will think about that,” and then do it. Because you never know who God might bring your way.
3) We’re worried about what we want others to see us as.
You might say that this is just a combination of the first two issues. In truth it is much more than that. It’s also a place we travel to that can have disastrous results.
The key thought to getting caught by the first two problems, what we think we should be and what others think we should be, is that we have the same end in mind. We want to be closer to God, we want to be better followers of Christ. The first two issues are the artists that paint the picture of what that looks like. In either case, we’ve chosen one rendition and worked to flesh it out in our lives.
This third issue is based on something else. We aren’t so worried about actually fleshing out a portrait of Christianity in our lives, we just want others to think we are. We’ve entered that place where we know there is a disconnect between who we are and who we are portraying ourselves to be. It is a troubling and diabolical situation where our heart is growing darker, but we want those around us to see the light instead.
As I write these words I pray that I am not here myself. Every pastor, leader or person of influence should stop and evaluate themselves from time to time. “Am I really as connected to God as I portray myself to be?” “Do I truly seek Him and His Kingdom as much as I encourage others to?” “What is my true heart condition?”
These are three traps that we very easily fall into. If we’re seeking to be closer to God and just trying to flesh it out, is that really a bad thing? No, of course it isn’t. But where are you getting your information from? Is it tailor made for you?
Scripture often talks about our new life as we being “in Christ.” We are in Him. We like to think that with Jesus, one size fits all. It’s true that one sacrifice accomplished all, but I think that it fits each one of us differently. Maybe we’ll have to take a closer look at that thought as we search for our selves.