“Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.” ~ Judy Garland
“Yet to all who did receive him… he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1: 12-13)
In part two of this series, we looked at how important it is to spend time listening to God and developing a closer relationship with him. One of the reasons why this matters is because knowing God helps us to know ourselves better and to understand who he designed us to be. You only know who you are when you know whose you are and accept his evaluation of you.
Having God’s evaluation of us is extremely important if we are to have a strong sense of security, significance and self worth, which are often said to be the foundations of a well adjusted personality. Experts often picture these attributes as a three-legged stool. If one of these legs is wobbly or weak, we will not have a strong foundation on which to live and relate to others. If this is the case, we may find we are looking to other people to gain a sense of worth and identity instead of being the person God designed us to be. If we don’t know who we are or have an inadequate sense of self, our insecurity will lead us to seek a sense of belonging from sources other than God, which can eventually cause difficulty in relationships or lead to other unhealthy habits.
Children are continually on a journey of discovery to find out who they are as they learn and receive feedback from family, friends and teachers in their world. They will often copy the behaviour of another child regardless of whether the behaviour is good or bad. Teachers often despair when little Jon, whose behaviour has always been exemplary, suddenly starts misbehaving because his school buddy is misbehaving, and then thinks it is funny!
“Be the well behaved boy you were designed to be, instead of copying (buddy)’s behaviour,” one frustrated teacher uttered as she disciplined Jon for his less than desirable copycat conduct.
“Just because (buddy) behaves that way, doesn’t mean you have to. You know better.”
Even though little Jon knows better, he still pushes the boundaries and imitates his buddy, because he has a need to belong and is looking for leadership. He is looking for validation and attention, as all children do.
We adults also need validation and leadership! How often do we adopt worldly standards or compromises because we want to be accepted and belong? Is there someone at work or in a group of friends that we try to emulate because they are popular? When I was a teen I remember once pretending that I smoked cigarettes in order to feel accepted in a popular group of students who smoked! I tried to fake it when one of them lit a cigarette for me, and then had to suffer through trying to look like I was drawing in smoke whilst coughing and choking on the smell and the fumes! It was awful! The whole time I was aware that I wasn’t being the ‘real’ me at all!
As an adult, I have watched many people in the workplace compromise the principles they started out with, in order to find favour with managers, or advance their position at work, slowly becoming more like those they are seeking to please, at the cost of losing integrity and respect.
Our own Teacher, Jesus himself, says to us, “Stop copying the world and its behaviours and be who God designed you to be!”
So, who did he design you to be? Holy? Yes! Royalty? Yes! You may not see it yet, but he does! You are the son or daughter of a King, who did not create you because he needed you, or because he was lonely, but simply because he wanted to love you and because he chose to make you part of his eternal plan. He made you to enjoy relationship with him and to make you part of the greatest story the universe has ever known! He wired you for significance. He wired you for security. He wired you to be cherished and overflowing with self worth in the knowledge of his unconditional and endless love for you!
You are unique! There is only one you, created with loving care. You are “fearfully and wonderfully made” as Psalm 139 tells us. You are an exclusive, one of a kind, one-time only gift, worth so much more than you know! You do not need the approval or acceptance of the world.
In Galatians 1:10, Paul says that if we are trying to please people and seek their approval, we are not in fact followers of Christ!
“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
John 12:43 describes how some of the religious leaders during the time of Jesus, believed in him, but because of the Pharisees who rejected him, they would not openly admit their belief, because they “loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.”
You do not need to hide your true self, lower yourself to the world’s standards or change who you are for the sake of approval from others. Nice as people are, they are not perfect! Some of us waste a lot of energy trying to impress other imperfect humans!
In fact, Jesus himself said that those who try to look impressive in order to be honoured by others, receive their reward in full by doing so! (See Matthew 6:1-6) The “reward’ being quite simply the (fleeting) attention of other people, instead of the reward God has in store!
Be true to you and to God! Be who you were designed to be!
Alice was a new Christian who was struggling with her self worth. She came from a broken home, where years before, she had been made aware that her father had wanted a son, but she was his only child. This caused her to feel that she was a disappointment to her father. It troubled her until God, her heavenly Father, spoke the following words, telling her that she was “…born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”
Being new to the faith, she had no idea which part of the Bible the verse was from, but she searched until she found it in John 1:13. It changed her life! She knew God had spoken directly to her and was overwhelmed with a tremendous sense of significance, because she realized that she had been born because God ordained it. God had chosen her! God had longed for and planned for her! She highlighted the words in bright yellow in her Bible and wrote alongside the verse “ME!”
And that is you too!
The Message Bible puts the translation this way (John 1, verses 12-13, brackets mine)
“But whoever did want him, (Jesus)
who believed he was who he claimed
and would do what he said,
He made to be their true selves,
their child-of-God selves.
These are the God-begotten,
Let me repeat that.
“He made to be their true selves, their child-of-God selves”
Your child of God self is your real self!
Just as God spoke the world into being, he spoke you into being. He gave you your name. You are here because God wanted you, just as you are. Your children are here because God wanted them just as they are! He chose the shade of your skin, the colour of your hair, the colour of your eyes, the dimples in your cheeks, the shape and height you are! The world tells us that we can be whoever we want to be, that we get to choose or change God’s design, right down to changing gender if we don’t feel right in our bodies. But the Bible says that what God created, specifically man, was “very good” (Genesis 1:31).
God also planted your dreams and desires within you. What are your heartfelt passions and dreams? What are your gifts? What matters to you? When he made you, he broke the mould, so that your DNA is unique! God put all of your cells and tissues together carefully and lovingly. He knew your name before your birth. He knows everything about you and created you for a unique purpose. Nobody else in history can fill your place in the world. You are no “mere mortal” as C.S. Lewis said. There is nothing simple about you at all! You do not need to play a part or try to find yourself, but rather discover who God designed you to be.
Nobody knows a child better than their parent. You know their soul, their sensitivities, their anxieties, their strengths, their passions…how do you feel when you see them not showing their real self, hiding their gifts, acting unkindly or selfishly, or copying some undesirable behaviour? You know that they are their own kind of unique and beautiful self, and you long to see it shine through.
That is how God feels about you my friend! He knows you. He loves you. His heart breaks to see us pretending to be someone else or compromising our values to fit in with other broken people, because he longs so much to bless our lives and to see us fulfilled, rather than seeking to meet our needs through others. In Jeremiah 2: 13 God summed up man’s biggest problem, describing how we have abandoned him, the “spring of living water” and instead dug our own “broken cisterns” that can hold no water, leaving our souls thirsty. Rather than drawing our worth and significance from him, and following his leadership, listening to him as we saw last week, we often turn to other broken vessels for approval and significance.
If we spend too much time seeking the approval and leadership of others, we can also begin to absorb their attitudes. It is very easy to adopt positions of dissatisfaction, criticism, self absorption, or judgement. Negativity breeds negativity. Gossip breeds gossip. Drama breeds drama. If we spend time with negative or critical people long enough, we become that way ourselves. We soak up attitudes from one another like weeds growing in springtime! Our sinful nature thrives on all that opposes God’s design, giving us a false sense of power and significance which is no more than a cheap reflection of God’s purpose for us.
Don’t be the cheap version of you. Don’t be a second rate version of someone else. You were built to be first rate! Don’t fall for the world’s illusions or false paths to significance. Stop copying and be your child-of-God self!
Prayer: Father, thank you that I am your child and that you chose and created me in love to be part of your eternal plan! How I long to be the person you designed me to be! Forgive me for those times when the approval of others has been more important than your evaluation of me. Please help me to look to you for identity, validation and leadership, so that I can be my true, child of God self. In Jesus Name, Amen.
Please click here for part four of this series.