Do you snort when you laugh? Do you get frustrated with your kids? Does your house look like a bomb site? Do you like a drink with dinner? Do you like dressing up? Do you laugh at slightly inappropriate things? Does the odd swear word slip out?
You’re not alone.
A follower recently reached out expressing anxiety and confusion about what she was supposed to look like as a follower of Christ. And she is not alone either.
The anxiety comes from two things. First, we compare ourselves to others. Second, we know that we are not matching up to what we see in the Bible.
Let’s take comparison. We all know we do it, and we all know it’s a fatally flawed way of looking at the world. But we still do it. We compare ourselves to those people in church who are just amazing at doing Christian life. We compare ourselves to Instagrammers who post filtered shots of themselves hanging out in a beautiful garden with coffee and a Bible. We compare ourselves to the people we see on Facebook who talk about how intentional they’re being in their Christian parenting or how blessed they are to be serving madly at everything.
That’s not me, we think. I feed my kids toast for dinner when I’m too tired to cook. I waste too much time looking at cat videos when I’m lying in bed at night, knowing I should be going to sleep. I like to hang out with the girls over a drink and laugh a little bit too loudly. I’m not godly. I’m not this picture of quiet Christian respectability.
When we compare ourselves to what we see in the Bible, we feel inadequate, small, helpless. I don’t have the faith of the bleeding woman or the disciples that drop everything and go, or Paul, or Barnabas or Timothy. They gave everything. They lived their faith deeply and passionately.
That’s not me, we think. I like wearing nice clothes. I like going out for dinner. I like having enough money to go on holiday.
Here’s the thing though. We need to stop trying to measure up to other people. Firstly, because they have their stuff going on as well. They aren’t perfect. And if they are further along the Christian journey that us, we need to look to them for inspiration, not comparison. Talk to them. Learn from them. But see them as the real, flawed humans that God knows they are. Only God is perfect.
Also, have confidence in yourself. In 1 Corinthians 15:10 Paul says “By the grace of God I am what I am.” God made us in his image and He saved us at our most broken. We are how we are because of God and He loves us. And we are jars of clay (2 Corinthians 4:7-9) – we are supposed to be jars of clay! So we don’t glory in our brokenness, but we can recognise it and take heart that God loves us and chose us because of who we are in and of ourselves, not in spite of what we’ve become.
That’s not to say we can’t improve. We should and we must. But not because we come out unfavourably by comparison to other flawed humans – because we are so deeply grateful to God that it spurs us to action. This spur is a response to what God has done. If we don’t feel this spur, then we need to go back to the cross. It means we have forgotten (as humans are prone to do) or drowned out the truth of the cross with the noise of the world. We need to re-remember and re-orient ourselves back to Him.
We also need to be close enough to Him (through prayer and mediation) and His word (through Bible reading, church and small groups) to be able to self-reflect. I am me, by the grace of God I am what I am – but where are my rough edges? Where do I need to rein in my worldliness? We do this by looking at our motivations. You might like to wear nice clothes. That in and of itself is not a bad thing. But are you wearing them because you are wanting to attract attention? Are you wearing them to show off?
Similarly, if you’re posting things on Facebook, is it to share joyfully? Or deep down, is it to show off? To make others feel a little jealous?
If we look at our motivations honestly, it will show us where our rough edges and blind spots are – where we need to do some business with God and ask the Holy Spirit to help us progress this good work that Jesus started in us. It is OK to be motivated by taking pleasure in things God has blessed us with. It’s not OK to want to dabble in sinfulness, or lead others into sinfulness too. That’s a sign our hearts are not where they should be – and again, we need to go back to the cross.
J. C. Ryle in his book Holiness (I HIGHLY recommend reading it – it speaks beautifully and truthfully into this issue) says “A true Christian is one who has not only peace of conscience, but war within. He may be known by his warfare as well as by his peace.”
This is so true. We have the peace of God, and yet we struggle with our sinfulness. And bizarrely, that’s a good sign. It means we are aware of humanity’s proneness to wander. It means we are struggling with things we are supposed to be struggling with. But the struggle is not the star of the show. God is.
This is a journey and the focus is God. See my awesome sketch below showing the journey…..
We are broken and imperfect but we are justified. We are sinful but we are being sanctified. And Jesus will complete this good work in us but we have agency and the ability to make choices.
This does not mean that a sanctified person becomes some kind of Christian robot. We are not all supposed to be clones. You are YOU. God loves us in all our uniqueness and rubbishness. In God we can be more ourselves than anywhere else because He knows us inside out – there is no hiding from Him.
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10).
The Christian journey is not about fading into the shadows so that we all merge into an amorphous Christian blob. We let our sinfulness diminish as our focus on Christ increases. And we keep our unique personality and experience that has shaped us, just re-oriented toward God, rather than ourselves. That remains just as unique and individual in how that re-orientation is expressed in your life through your personality.
Self-reflect. Learn. Grow. Sanctify. Be yourself, but be yourself for God. And you will be more you than you ever were before.