Sunday, January 14, 2024

Free to Not Be Who I Am

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.
 But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which 
God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. 
All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. 
And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.
Philippians 3:13-15

Some people counsel others to "Just be who you are." I think that's bad counsel. But it is an alternative in a godless, secular culture.

When I was a campus pastor at Michigan State University in the 1980s I had many meetings with new students. I would begin the conversation by asking them, "Tell me, who are you?" 

When I was a college freshman I could not answer this question. I think back and remember how others viewed me. I was...

...drug user
...alcohol abuser
...failure animal

I didn't let others see my insides. Even if I wanted to reveal my heart, I was unable to because I never addressed the self-question, never asked, "Who am I..., really?"

Looking back I see myself as...

...lacking confidence
...easily manipulated

Outwardly, especially when I was drunk, I celebrated who I was. Inwardly, the party was over. I was mired in the Eriksonian "identity crisis," a prisoner caught between ego identity and role confusion. 

Looking back, should I have celebrated this? No way! Should I have "accepted who I was?" No, thank God.

Don't celebrate who you are. Instead, look at what you are meant to be. You need more change (as do I). 

If you are a Jesus-follower, celebrate Christ, not the "you" that you are now. You have been purposed to be like Christ. He is the paradigm of true humanity.

God wants to set you free from this world's current identity confusion. What you can be and be transformed into is what matters, not the current "you" that others, or you, think you are. This is no small matter. Your answer to this will influence everything you do in life. And, contrary to how our identity-celebrating culture embraces this, it is not easy. 

In the winter of 1970 I was on a tiny stage in DeKalb, Illinois, playing my guitar in a band in front of a small crowd. That's when my release from who I was began. The thought came to me, "I am screwed up." When I heard this, I didn't feel condemned. I felt truth. That's when the voices of friends who said they liked "me" and thought I was "fun" began to lose their influence.

Every rescue begins with repentance. A few days after this I looked away from my self, and began to look at Jesus. I was being set free, not to be who I was, but what I was always meant to be.