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Just Be Yourself – a “Christ-one”

Americans can be pretty good at claiming to be someone they’re not. Christians can be, too.  Research psychologists have found there are at least three situations when we are not ourselves.

First, the average person puts on airs when he visits the lobby of a fancy hotel. Have you ever done that? A number of years ago, Laura, the kids and I would travel to French Lick for weekend vacations at a hotel with a small water park. The hotel is nice, but relatively inexpensive, for families with young children. Right up the street, however, is the West Baden Springs Hotel. Originally built in 1855, this elegant structure was once called the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” with European-influenced architecture and an atrium that spans 200 feet. Our low-budget family would stay at the hotel with the water park and then drive up the road to walk into the atrium and pretend we were guests on a weekend, modish excursion.

Next, according to research psychologists, the average person will try to hide their emotions and bamboozle the salesman when entering a new car showroom. Buying a car can be one of the most excruciating experiences birthed right out of the pit of the underworld. But the few times I’ve walked into a car salesman’s office, I act like I’m an old pro who knows exactly what he’s doing. That salesman had better not try any of those shady sales tactics on me, because I’ve been around the block a few times, and it isn’t my first rodeo. Okay, so maybe I’ve only been around the block once.

Can you guess what the third environment is where we are not ourselves? According to this same psychological study, it’s when we take our seat in church. Whether we’re in a fancy hotel, a new car showroom, or church, researchers indicate we pretend to be better than we really are, and we want people to believe we are someone we’re not.

It’s hard for us to be who we really are and not pretend to be someone else. We might not like who we are, or we think people might accept us more if they saw as someone with a higher class, style, money or power. I remember times in high school where fellow students would ask each other what their dads did for a living, and they would respond with such occupations as attorneys, businessmen, contractors, and the like. You know, the “cool” jobs. When students would ask me what my dad did for a living, I would hesitate, because I didn’t like saying, “My dad is a pastor.” Uncool. So I not only pretended to be someone I wasn’t, I pretended my dad was someone he wasn’t.

Why do we care so much what other people think? Why do we succumb to the pressure of trying to be someone we’re not? Why aren’t we more comfortable “in our own skin”? Perhaps part of the issue is that we have not fully embraced the biblical teaching that God created us (Genesis 1:26-27), loves us (John 3:16), and makes us a new creation through Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

If we see ourselves as God’s creation, that our Creator loves us, and He has even re-created us and given us new life, then we have value, worth, purpose and meaning regardless of our looks, job, income, or status. We don’t have to pretend to be someone we’re not. We don’t have to put on airs, try to bamboozle people, or wear masks when we take our seat in church.

Not everyone will agree with this, of course, but the Bible is pretty clear that our worth, value, hope, meaning and purpose come when we turn over the reigns of our lives to God who “made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:5-6).

You are not what you do. Your identity is not wrapped up in your profession, status, or appearance. If you have given your life to Jesus, then you are a “Christ-one,” a “Christ-ian.” You were made alive to God in Christ (Romans 6:11). You were redeemed in Christ (Romans 3:24). You have eternal life in Christ (Romans 6:23). You have been set free in Christ (Romans 8:2). And you are part of the local and global body of believers in Christ (Romans 12:5).

So, the next time you enter the lobby of a hotel, a new car showroom, or a church, you don’t have to pretend to be someone you’re not. If you’re not in Christ, I humbly encourage you to give Him your life. If you are in Christ, then remember your identity is rooted in Him, not in your ability to negotiate the purchase of a new car.

Valuing Life Lived “In-Between”

Much of life is lived in the “in-betweens.” We’re in-between jobs, in-between vacations, in-between marriages, in-between weekends, in-between churches, in-between our children’s birth and sending them off to college, in-between houses, or in-between retirement and our heavenly home.

We have milestones along the way, such as high school or college graduations, taking that new job, marriage, having children, buying a new house, and retirement. We have beginnings and endings, starting points, and those times when the job is done. As the Preacher writes in Ecclesiastes, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4).

The Preacher highlights moments within time as ends of a spectrum, and Scripture as well as our human experience confirms the wisdom of knowing these seasons of life. My question is: How do we live our lives in-between those seasons? How do we live our lives when we’re not starting something new or drawing something to a close? How do we find joy, balance, margin, and growth when we’re not planting or harvesting, but we’re waiting on the plants to grow? How do we live life when we’re not breaking things down or building them up, or we’re not weeping or laughing? We’re simply, in-between?

Too often, I miss out on the richness of life in the “in-betweens,” because I’m so focused on what is yet to come or so bothered by what has just happened. I replay the past over and over again in my head, or I produce a full-length production in my mind of what hasn’t even happened yet!

Just as we need to value the differing seasons and the ends of the seasonal spectrum, we also need to value the majority of life which is lived in-between. Here are a couple of suggestions on how to do just that.

First, celebrate beginnings and milestones accomplished, but live life in the present. It’s one thing to celebrate the birth of a child, but it’s another thing to wish the child remained a baby. It’s one thing to celebrate a new job, but it’s another thing to never move beyond the celebration into the actual fulfillment of meaningful labor. The same principle applies to us spiritually. We celebrate baptisms, but do we have a plan for spiritual growth beyond the “watery grave”? Every day is a new opportunity for living life in-between our first resurrection (salvation) and our second resurrection (heaven). If you fail to have a plan for how you live your life, you are planning to fail. Peter writes, “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love” (2 Peter 1:5-7). This is a description of living life in the in-between.

Second, learn from the past, mourn in seasons of grief, but join God in the now. God is not a God of the past or the future. He is the great “I Am” (Exodus 3:14). God is not confined to the measurement of time as though He were limited by the boundaries of human existence. God is always in the present, He redeems the past, and He creates the future. God encouraged the Israelites in a season of transition to “remember not the former things; nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:18-19a).

In the “in-betweens” of your life, will you do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8)? Will you not spend your time always waiting for the next great vacation, new job, or anything else that is supposedly just around the bend promising you happiness? Likewise, will you not spend your time living in the past, wishing for things that are no more, but join God in the now as He re-creates, does new things, and invites us to join Him in the daily journey of the in-between? My prayer is that we will find joy in the mundane and use those in-between moments of life to be shaped and forged into the image of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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