There was a point senior year when I felt completely comfortable in my own skin. I felt confident and accepted. I didn’t feel the need to be ‘approved’ by anyone, because I knew who I was. I owned my identity, meaning that I was okay with my interests, preferences, and beliefs. I was me. And I loved being me.
But it took a long time to get there. It took five (sometimes very lonely and awkward) years of discovering myself. When I reached that place of confidence, I felt perfectly content. It was wonderful.
The problem is that confidence can turn into pride. We start believing that we have mastered life. We loose our vulnerability. In a way, we start believing that we have it all together. During the summer, I started feeling too comfortable. I knew that I needed to be challenged and move outside my comfort zone. College was my opportunity.
Now I feel like I’m starting all over again at college. I’m discovering myself. I spent five years reaching for acceptance, I found it, and now I’m looking again.
The hard thing about college is that I’m surrounded by unique people who are incredibly talented. They come with impressive backgrounds and are working towards big dreams. I’m realizing how easy it is to get lost among the millions of opportunities. So much is at our fingertips, yet we can get lost while trying to find ourselves. In trying to define ourselves, we end up loosing our identity.
Smart people are really good at faking it. From the outside, it looks like we have it all together. We are mastering the college equation. But life doesn’t work like school–it can’t be conquered by learning and memorizing all the answers. We can be wearing away on the inside, while looking like we are succeeding on the outside.
The same thing applies to faith. God isn’t something to be mastered. The Bible isn’t a book to read and memorize. Prayer isn’t a task to check off at the end of the day.
God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” (Matthew 5:3, NLT)
God blesses those who realize their need for Him. When I get too comfortable, I tend to forget how much I need God. That’s why the challenge of finding my identity in college is so good. It forces me to rely on God. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. It is a struggle every day. I often fall into the temptation of comparing myself and giving into stress. I can choose to rely on my own strength or I can choose to rely on God. I’ve found that my own strength often proves futile.
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” (Romans 12:1-2, MSG)
I think sometimes we can turn Romans 12:1-2 into another checklist: be a living sacrifice and don’t conform to the world. Sounds like a lot of work. That’s why I love The Message version (which I actually just heard tonight at IV). The art of transforming is simplified into two actions. #1: Give God your life. #2: Pay attention to Him.
But as I concluded with some friends tonight, simple does not mean easy. The Christian faith is so simple, but it is not easy by any means. It is a struggle day in and day out. But the blessings are immeasurable. So it is with Paul’s instructions in Romans 12.
Surrendering to Christ is simple but difficult. Yet when we do this, God takes care of the rest. The power of transformation is not something that we have to do. We can’t “try” to change ourselves. God is the one who does the transforming. Lay your life before God and “you’ll be changed from the inside out.” It is not that you will change your self. Nope–you will be changed.
I’m not okay with letting go of my control. I’m also not okay with letting God be God. Rather, I want to understand what He is doing and know when He is doing it. Yet God is a mystery. His plans are also a mystery. However, I can trust Him because I’ve seen Him work.
I’ve felt Him turn my anxiety into trust. I surrendered my fears to God. I told Him that I trusted Him. Then I went about my life. And one day, I realized that I wasn’t feeling anxious anymore. I wasn’t having regular anxiety attacks. I was living my life with peace and hope. It didn’t happen overnight. The process was long and slow. But it wasn’t by my personal doing. I handed my life to God and He transformed me from the inside out.
Yet again and again I have to say, “You are God. I am not.”
Jesus, take the wheel. Every. Single. Day.
As believers, we have the Holy Spirit interceding for us in ways that we can’t understand. That’s another part of the mystery. Yet what a comfort it is to know that I have someone else advocating on my behalf.
I don’t have to prove myself. Jesus did that on the cross. Before Romans 12, Paul had spent 11 chapters talking about the theology of grace. My identity isn’t based on anything I do. Instead, my identity is based on the fact that I am saved by grace.
College has shown me that I am not good enough (as I wrote in my post “be unglamorous”). I have to accept that.
I came across this music video by Colbie Caillat over the summer and recently re-discovered it. I absolutely love the song. The chorus says: “You don’t have to try so hard / You don’t have to give it all away / You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up / You don’t have to change a single thing.”
I think the song applies perfectly to the way God works. I don’t have to try so hard. God works when I am simply “being.” All I have to do is give in to Him.
Just be yourself, and God will take care of the rest.
– – Phebe