Spiritual Rumination by Julia Phillips

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold, all things are become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17.

I’m sure every person who reads this can relate in some way, shape, or form. Life is raw, real, beautiful, painful, blessed, and a journey of growth. As we grow physically, we suffer growing pains. As we grow spiritually, we suffer growing pains as we mature into who Christ created us to be. Had the Lord desired so, He could have cloned every person on earth. Instead, there are no two people exactly alike — even in Christ. During this lifelong process we experience change every single hour we live and breathe. Not knowing who we are can cause confusion and even misery.

Many people create aliases — false identities — pretending to be someone they are not. Have you ever met someone who acted tough and almost untouchable, only to discover they were truly tender souls, afraid to be vulnerable? The fear of what people might think if they knew the real you can cause unimaginably painful growing pains, no matter your age. The desire for approval from others starts at a very young age. It can actually cause people, Christians included, to alter their personalities in order to be accepted and loved. All people are subject to this behavior, especially those who have suffered great pain or rejection at any age.

I watched a nature show called “Predators” on the National Geographic channel. One of the animals featured was the chameleon. Chameleons are lizards who have the ability to blend into their surroundings by changing colors. They do this mainly to hide from predators. As Christians we may not be able to alter our color, but we can develop false identities to protect ourselves from rejection or disapproval.

I remember a time when, as a teenager, I ran with a group of great people from the East Coast. Within a few days I began talking with their accent although I had lived in Iowa my entire life. I not only thought they sounded cool, but I didn’t relish being the odd girl out. It sounds silly, but you’d be surprised how often people do similar things to feel part of a group and to be protected from rejection. It is very common for people who have suffered trauma to be people-pleasers in many areas of their lives — physical, emotional, and spiritual.

The world is constantly toying with us, trying to get us to conform to a certain image which the majority has approved of. Even during the nature program on television, I was bombarded with commercials about what to wear, how much to weigh, and what car or truck to drive if I wanted to be accepted by the masses. The Bible tells us to be not conformed to the world, but instead to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Why? In order that we can prove what is the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God in our lives says Romans 12:2. The Amplified Bible explains it by saying to not conform to superficial values and customs, but instead to focus on godliness. That is our goal, our target, our prize!

So, what trips us up? Pretending is just a form of hiding. Our lives are supposed to be hidden in Christ, not hidden in trying to be someone we are not. God will never help you be someone else.

When I first moved to Delta Junction almost forty years ago, I met a beautiful group of women at one of the local churches. I can laugh now, but it wasn’t funny at the time; I wanted to be just like them, but I was trying to imitate them instead of the Christ in them. I tried learning to sew, but the last piece I sewed looked like something an octopus would wear. I failed miserably. I watched a couple of the women grind wheat and bake all their own rolls, breads, and fancy, twisted pastries. Just thinking of it now makes me chuckle. No matter what I did, my breads would not rise and ended up heavy enough to build with. Bread bricks were lethal weapons. Certainly nothing I wanted to contribute to Sunday potluck.

Eventually I realized what I was doing and why. I wanted to be accepted, acceptable, and loved. It took a lot of searching to find out what my desires really were. Who was I? That journey gave way and opened the door for my intense love for the Word of God to be used in preaching and writing. My true self loved people, and sure enough the Lord led me into social work and counseling. And the Lord used those gifts to transform and renew my mind. Just like He has or will do for you.

The more you learn to accept yourself and who you are in Christ, the more others will accept you. When we try to be someone we are not, we find ourselves snared by self-made traps which others see and reject as well. Self-rejection is our greatest enemy because it silences the still, small voice of the Beloved. We have to allow the Word of God to define who or what we are, not the world. In this journey I have watched our country become a culture of labels: wounded, betrayed, victims, damaged goods. But what does God say about you?

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a dedicated nation, (God’s) own purchased, special people, that you may set forth the wonderful deeds and display the virtues and perfections of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9.

“And set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things), not on the things that are on the earth. For (as far as the world is concerned) you have died, and your (new, real) life is hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:2-3.

Who are you really? Your true self is hiding with God, and you are a new creation in Christ Jesus. Shake off those old labels! Call yourself who you truly are — the Beloved of God. Confident, strong, and accepted in Him. It has become easy for the identity of young people to be hijacked these days. So many are running from something, to somewhere, but they are not even sure where.

I read something not long ago about a lady who visited an Alzheimer’s ward as a ministry. She’d walk around and visit with people for hours. She was well-known in the ward. She walked up to a man one day and said, “Good morning! Do you know who I am?” The man replied, “No, but if you walk up to the front desk they can tell you.”

That’s a perfect example of what I’m trying to say. Don’t allow anyone or anything else tell you your name or nature. You are unique, treasured, valued, and a son or daughter of the Almighty God, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. He loves you so much, just as you are, that He sent His Son to die in your place, taking upon Himself all the punishment due for every sin you have ever committed or will commit.

Who are you, really? You are more than a conqueror right now. Stop looking in the mirror wishing you looked or sounded more like someone else. There is only one like you on earth, and you are perfect in Him.

Ruminate on that.