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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “The Mane Attraction”

In this episode, Applejack got a rather big shock on seeing her old friend Coloratura from summer camp as a nation-wide-renown pop idol. Not because of her fame, though, but rather because she seemed so radically different from the pony she remembered. Rather than being down-to-earth she wore elaborate makeup, costumes, hairstyles, went around with an entourage, and passed around fake kisses for autographs. At first it led her to think her friend had changed. A deeper look, however, revealed she was still the same pony; she merely adopted this persona (on her dishonest manager’s advice) because she thought she’d be a failure without it.

This brought something to mind that I’ve puzzled over in the past: the concept of being true to yourself. It seems like it’s a fairly straightforward maxim. Most people always encourage you to “be yourself” even at any early age rather than try to imitate other people. We as a society value uniqueness, individual quirks, and personality traits. We hold “diversity” to be a virtue, and while that is normally applied to people of different races, genders, creeds, and the like, it’s also applied simply to personality differences. Nevertheless, as a Christian I find this subject rather contentious and I believe others would feel the same way.

The topic of being true to oneself is one matter where many Christians might feel a bit “confused” as to what the Bible instructs. On one hand, we have messages about how we are special creations, and how all of our differences come together to make a whole. “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:14) “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Romans 12:4-5). And it’s true indeed that everyone is different and no one can be “you” or anyone else. Yet at the same time, we hear a lot about how we are to be conformed to the image of Christ and to become more and more like Him in every area, as Jesus represents the ideal Christian.”You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24). “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2). “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1).

That begs the question of whether or not the message of being true to oneself, or, more succinctly, “being yourself” is one supported by the Bible. Does God truly appreciate us as we are? Aren’t we all sinful and therefore displeasing to God? Isn’t one of the goals of Christianity  for us to become “better” because none of us are good as-is? After all, if we were, why would we need Jesus?

It’s not just in the Bible but in many areas of life where we can get the message that we ourselves are “not good enough”–that we need to improve ourselves in some way or alter who we are in order to be acceptable in certain situations, circles, or even to certain individuals. In the extreme case, a person can get it into their head that they are no good in any way and constantly need to change to fit other molds…usually ones made by other people. Certainly many religions do that, especially in horror stories involving cults. The question is…is Christianity just a “lighter” example of that?

First and foremost, God hates sin not sinners. God hates things that are evil and bring death and destruction to his creations, which includes human beings. I personally refuse to believe that God creates anything just to hate it or destroy it…especially people.No one is exactly like anyone else and all people are unique, and this is something I strongly believe God takes delight in and created intentionally. The world itself is full of wonder and variety, and the way life exists and evolves, as I learned in my background through the life sciences, increases the wonder and variety as time goes on.

In the same way, while I have my times where I have doubts or questions, ultimately I don’t believe God wants us to change the core of our being or personality. After all, why would God create us to be a certain kind of personality just to want to change it completely? To me, that would imply imperfection or a “mistake” on the part of God. And no one is ever created as a mistake.

What God would like us to do, and what I believe the passages up above are saying, is remove anything that keeps us from being the best that we can be. A different pastor that I listened to once likened it to a block of marble in the hands of a sculptor. The sculptor doesn’t change the marble that the statue is made out of. Nor does the sculpture takes bits of this and that and mold it together to make the statue. What he or she does is remove everything around the statue until one can only see the statue itself.

As I said before, God hates sin, wickedness, and evil; not people. What he wants us to do, I believe, is not to remove things that make us who we are but remove things from our lives that keep us from being who we are. Things that we’ve devoted too much time and energy to that have no value, or things that are ultimately self-destructive. While it’s taken me years to figure this out and it’s still something I’m trying to accept, I believe while God may call us into difficult situations and to do things we have no experience doing, he ultimately won’t call us to do something that is completely contrary to what we are.

For example, I feel God might call me to step out of my comfort zone to talk to someone even though I’m terrible at interacting with strangers, or to volunteer for something that I feel antsy about doing; but I doubt God will ever call me to design an attractive new form of footwear or play a complete concerto on a violin because I haven’t the slightest idea, talent, or inclination to do either of those things, even if God could somehow make either of those things benefit the Kingdom. God could possibly call me to do those things, because all things are possible through him, but it’s more likely that he will direct me to do something that only I can do with my unique set of talents, such as my writing ability, my attention to detail, my knowledge of biology, or my skill at computing. Something that perhaps only that unique combination can service.

While we should always strive to not sin, it’s important to not only appreciate our own differences and be true to ourselves, but not to let ourselves be lured into thinking we need to change fundamentally who we are to become acceptable to God.

A. As already stated, God made us and knows who we are, and he designed us so no one else is like us.

B. God already accepts us and sent his Son, Jesus, to die for our sins while we were still sinners. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) We are already where he wants us when he wanted us.

C. God’s love is unconditional. If we had to change to become pleasing to God for him to love us, it would be conditional and therefore not true love. He may not want to leave us where we are at or to want us to keep sinning, but his love for us is not something that is earned or contingent on merit.

D. Feeling the need to change ourselves to become pleasing to others is unhealthy and a mark of low self-esteem and acceptance. It is used by others as a manipulative tool. God doesn’t desire to manipulate anyone against their will because he gave us all freedom to choose. If one is around others who pressure them to change to be acceptable to them or, worse yet, in a Church that preaches that God desires such a thing, it’s important to get away quick.

E. Finally, while there are many worthwhile and important ministries out there and the temptation might be to try and change ourselves to fit one of them, and we should always “aim high”, there are also ministries that are a perfect fit for us. If we try to change ourselves to fit one of these “higher callings” because we feel they are more important rather than a genuine calling, the end result will likely be disaster (as I found out myself the hard way). When trying to hit a target, it’s important not only to aim high but point ourselves at the right “bull’s eye”…probably one that’s geared toward one of our aptitudes.

To paraphrase Lord Jesus’ parable about the sparrows and throw in a bit of my own Biology knowledge into the mix…  There are easily over 350,000 species of beetles in the world. While they’re all just “bugs” to most people, each one of them fills their own little niche in the world and no two species do the exact same thing. All are necessary to make the natural world as wondrous as it is now.

And I believe God likely holds we are all “worth more than many beetles”. 🙂

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, I praise you for how wonderfully you made me, with all of my virtues and all of my faults, and that no one is exactly like me. This day I wish to give you the very best of who I am as I commit and trust my life to you. Please remove from me everything that keeps me from living up to this potential. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”