Sometimes my life feels like a long saga of making proclamations to myself…
I would never do that.
Nah, that’s not really for me.
That’s not my thing.
This is what I am made for.
This is my thing, my purpose.
This is who I am.
…And then God bringing me around later and showing me, “Surprise! Now this is your thing.” “Tell you what – now I’m going to have you do that.” “Guess what? This is for you.”
As a silly example of what I mean…
When I was a kid, I once proclaimed that I’d never feed my kids sandwiches. We had PB&J most days for lunch and I eventually decided sandwiches were boring.
And now I have an entire Instagram account dedicated to sharing my sandwich inspirations and all the sandwiches I enjoy making, because making sandwiches is one of my favorite hobbies. (And my kids don’t really appreciate the fancy sandwiches yet, so guess what? Most of the time they have PB&J. 😉 )
I also maintained for years that “I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations,” (as said J.R.R. Tolkien) and that I generally eschew symbolism in my stories.
Lo and behold, the most recent story God gave me to write started as straight allegory, and has evolved into a more varied but still deeply symbolic fantasy story. And I love it with a great passion.
These kinds of things keep me humble…or they should. 😉
Perhaps more startling and painful is when God shows me, “No, that isn’t what you were made for. No, that’s not actually your purpose. No, that is not who you are.”
I like to have a very solid perception of myself. Who I am. What I am. Where I’m going. What I’m made for. I like to do the things I’ve always done and be the person I’ve always been: solid, steady, reliable. I like to know why I’m here and then stalwartly fulfill that purpose.
But who I am needs to grow. And in my finite human perspective, “why I’m here” is always my own subjective idea.
As much as I loftily think I understand God’s purpose for me, His ways are not my ways. He is in charge of my life and how He uses it. Who am I to even dream that I would fully understand who He made me to be and why?
God is in the business of showing me, again and again, that “who I am” is a lot more fluid – and a whole lot bigger – than I think it is.
“Who I am” isn’t habits or preferences or projects or talents. “Who I am” is broader than any of the things I use to define myself. How can my identity be anything but vast and broad, when I am created in the image of an endless and infinite God, a new creature being remade into a picture of His all-powerful Son?
I pride myself on being someone who thinks outside the box to some extent. Yet here I sit, chalking out little boxes for my identity and then planting myself in them and making myself at home.
And then freaking out when God spray-hoses away a side or two of the box I was so comfortable in.
Hopes, dreams, ambitions, talents, abilities, callings, habits – I’m prone to believe that who I am comes from those things, the things that I “am.”
But what a fragile and shaky identity that is!
Any one of those things God could remove in a moment. He is always changing me and growing me. Erasing my boxes. What I think defines me one decade may seem small and silly to me the next. Worse, I may remain stubbornly planted in a box when I am far too big to fit inside anymore, like a baby bird trying to squeeze itself tight inside the broken eggshell…when in reality, it’s big enough to fly.
I believe we each have a unique identity. I personally dislike the reductionist mentality of only ever saying, “I’m a sinner saved by grace – that’s all I am,” to explain who we are, because clearly each sinner saved by grace is an individual loved and called by the Lord, hands and feet and noses and toes in the body of Christ. We are each created and redeemed for a purpose, and it’s not unspiritual to believe that we have an identity of our own. We are one in Christ, and our identity is in Him – but we are not a hive mind.
Yet I cannot allow “who I am” to rest on who I think I am. I am being sanctified into Christ’s image. I’m a work in progress! Maybe I think I’m a quick piece of flash fiction allegory, but I’m really a long, symbolic, high fantasy paranormal romance short-story/novella thing – who knows? 😉
That story I’m writing is still in progress. I know how it ends, and I know how it began, but I still have no idea what’s in the middle! My own life is not too different.
Unlike God, I’m not unchangeable. And praise Him for that! – I am tiny, blind, flawed, sinful.
If I’m going to fly to unknowns where God wants me to fly – if I’m going to grow to new heights that God wills me to grow – then I have to stop telling myself that my limits end at the four corners of some tiny box that I’ve used to define myself.
Why be satisfied with a basic, simple explanation of what I’m made for, when He made me for Himself – for absolute infinity?
Not only is He vast, but He is constant, un-altering, and trustworthy. In this world, He is the only thing we can rely on to define our souls. Looking to anything less than Him to be our all-in-all is locking ourselves in a cage.
I am a child of an infinite, all-powerful God, an ever-growing work-in-progress by His grace. I should never be content to live inside a box.
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. – 1 John 3:1-3 (emphasis mine)