Written By Faith Hanan, USA
We hear self-motivating phrases like “You do you”, “Just be yourself”, and “Live authentically” all the time. I’ll be honest, I have probably said a few of them myself.
As this whole authenticity/just-be-yourself idea has gained momentum, I have found myself reflecting . . . what if the “self” we’re told to be is broken? What if the “you” we want to do isn’t holy? Aren’t we as Christians supposed to change and grow to look more like Jesus? Aren’t we supposed to count ourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11)?
But at the same time, I don’t want to lose all the things that make me feel like . . . well, me! I don’t want to have to become someone or something that I’m not in order to qualify as a more “mature” Christian. A question I’ve often wrestled with is: Does following Christ mean I need to give up my personality? It’s really a tricky line to toe, and one that I’ve been exploring for quite a while now.
I’m learning that when Christians talk about authenticity, we need to start by talking about sanctification. Because if Jesus is truly the Lord of our lives, then we have given Him the right to change us and remake us into His image. Scripture reminds us of this very truth!
And we all, with unveiled faces reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another, which is from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18a, NET).
If we commit ourselves—uniqueness, personality, quirks, likes, dislikes, and talents included—to following Christ wholeheartedly, God will take what He created (us!), and refine us to be more like His Son. And wouldn’t you know, in His creative and marvelous fashion, God can sanctify us without wiping out all the God-given things that make us unique! My sense of humor, laid back style, love for rodeo and the outdoors, doesn’t have to disappear just because I am committed to following Christ.
I often think of the sanctification process (growing more and more like Jesus) like we are a dirty ol’, nasty mirror with a thick layer of mud covering the glass. When we come to Christ, we are placed in front of the brightest, most beautiful light we’ve ever seen, and pointed at an angle to reflect the gorgeous life-saving light to the people in our world. But if we are going to reflect much, we need washing, we need cleaning up.
As we get to know Jesus better and better, as we look into the Word to see who we already are in Christ, and as we become doers of the Word and not just hearers only (James 1:22), the Word washes us. The Word cleanses, purifies, changes, and grows us. And as it does, we are able to reflect that glorious, life-giving light more, and more, and more and more . . .
But how do we do it? How do we grow as a Christian and still be ourselves? How do we become our sanctified selves? Here are three tips that have proven very helpful as I’ve sought to be more Christlike and more myself.
1. Come as you are . . . so that you can be transformed
When our daughter Aliyah was born, she was a lot of work. She couldn’t feed herself, communicate, hold up her own head, or (still can’t) wipe her own butt. I love her in the middle of these phases, but I expect her to grow up. I do not want to still be wiping her butt when she is 12. As a good, loving parent, I expect growth.
Similarly, although God lovingly pursues us and rescues us just as we are—mess and all—He doesn’t want us to sit there forever. While Jesus never asks us to hide who we are and what we are dealing with, He does ask us to lay those issues down, and surrender to being renewed and transformed (Romans 12:2).
2. Allow Jesus to heal the wounds that cause unholy behavior
The cussing that I’ve struggled with when a certain sorrel horse pushes my buttons? That’s not who I am. That is a result of some kind of wounding or misplaced identity . . . some mud that I have stuck on my mirror.
As I allow God to heal that area, I quit cussing little by little, and I better reflect His glory. It’s part of putting off my old self, being made new in the attitude of my mind, and putting on my new self that is created to be like God in righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:22-24).
3. Mitigate your weaknesses, but focus on your strengths
I am not naturally organized. Mess doesn’t bother me like it does my sister-in-law. While I should learn to take good care of my stuff and budget, I don’t need to be my sister-in-law.
Yes, I can learn from some of her methods, but ultimately the majority of my personal growth efforts are better spent embracing the things that I am naturally gifted at, rather than spending all my efforts on something I have little natural gift for. As we offer our strengths in love, the whole body grows and is built up (Ephesians 4:16).
Moving Forward with Confidence
The more I let Jesus heal my heart and cleanse me from anything that is not pleasing to Him, the more myself I become. I am still funny; I am still fun. I still lead courageously and boldly. I am MORE myself than I was 10 years ago because I am growing into exactly who God created me to be—a life giver, a warrior, an encourager, and a woman who fiercely loves those around her. And this, this, is freeing. This is a holy work—the true essence of authenticity and sanctification, of growing as a Christian and still being myself.
In many areas, it is a process. It requires us to make daily choices to walk in love, and to choose growth over comfort. But praise God, He is committed to the process: “His mercies begin afresh each morning” (Lamentations 3:23b NLT). He is committed to our growth (Philippians 1:6). Sanctification is a beautiful, hard, holy, and oftentimes wrecking work. But it is worth it. Anything He asks us to do always is.