Yesterday I did a book review of John Ortberg's "The Me I Want To Be." As I said, it's one of my favorite books already, so I thought that I would take one of his themes and expand on it today.
Each of us make choices in life, some big ones; some little ones. These choices, especially the big ones, have a great deal to do with the people we are becoming. We often are convinced to settle for someone else's version of success, rather than becoming who God called us to be. In the second chapter of Ortberg's book, he mentions a number of different "mes."
The Me I Don't Want To Be
I don't know about you, but I don't want to be a pretender. I remember early in my ministry being very intimidated by other pastors who were around me. Actually, they were not called Pastor, they were called "Reverend." They wanted to make it clear to all around that they had earned this distinction, and were very quick to offer up their credentials, degrees, etc... to prove their point. (There's nothing wrong with titles, I'm speaking here of attitude.)
To me, they were simply unapproachable. Please hear me, I am a believer in education, but I think that education often simply makes us more of what we were in the first place. If we were arrogant, intolerant, and boastful before, we'll simply be more-so if we get a degree. But if we're teachable, humble, and caring before, the chances are we'll be more like that. What I learned from those early days is that being qualified doesn't have to make you insufferable. I also found myself drawn to those who had the same letters beside their names, but didn't pretend to be perfect or put on airs.
The Me I Pretend To Be
I find in myself a disturbing tendency - I like to impress people. I can easily act like those I mentioned above. I like for people to think highly of me and, when I'm at my worst, I can bend the truth to try to make that happen. It's like the story that Ortberg shares of the "freshly minted lieutenant (who) wanted to impress the first private to enter his new office, and he pretended to be on the phone with a general so that the private would know he was somebody. 'Yes sir, General, you can count on me,' he said as he banged the receiver down. Then he asked the private what he wanted. 'I'm just here to connect your phone, sir.'" Priceless.
God sees the real me, and if I'm ever to become all that I can be, I need to be honest about who I am. It sounds like a good place to start.
The Me I Think I Should Be
I think we all have a tendency to look around and to compare ourselves with others, doing a mental tally of how we measure up. I have gone to seminars and tried to reproduce in my own life what I've heard that someone else is doing, only to end up frustrated and disillusioned when I realize that I'm not them. Sometimes I've lived my life trying to live up to the expectations that everyone else had for me - a surefire recipe for burnout.
Something that Henri Nouwen said is very insightful here: "Spiritual greatness has nothing to do with being greater than others. It has everything to do with being as great as each of us can be." As Ortber says, "...God's plan is not for you to obey him because you should even though you don't want to. He made you to want his plan for you."
The Me Other People Want Me To Be
Have you noticed that pretty much everyone has an opinion on how you should change? Your doctor thinks you should exercise more (he's probably right). Your wife thinks you should eat better (she's probably right too). Your boss thinks you should work harder; ad execs think you should spend more money and the government thinks you should pay more taxes. But when I allow others to make those determinations for me, I become less me (though I should exercise more and eat better).
I'm learning that the person I need to please is no-one other than God himself. He knows me like nobody else does, including me. The question is, do I trust him?
The Me I'm Afraid God Wants
"A recent study by the Barna Group found that the number one challenge to helping people grow spiritually is that most people equate spiritual maturity with trying hard to follow the rules in the Bible." This is a major issue because it misses the point: "Jesus didn't come to make bad people good; he came to make dead people live." (See John 10:10)
You can be a very religious person and be far from the best version of yourself. Jesus came to deal with the heart, and to call us to join him in reshaping this world. We can only do this as we understand ourselves as we were meant to be. God can be trusted with your life.
The Me That Fails To Be
When an infant is born, but for some reason is unable to gain weight, it is often diagnosed with what is called Failure To Thrive (FTT), kind of a catch-all diagnosis. This seems to be very common among adults in regards to life in general. There are a great many people who are simply stuck. They can't seem to make the changes that need to be made. They know things aren't right in their marriage, their job, their life, but they can't seem to summon up the courage or the strength to do anything about it.
Perhaps the best way to describe many people is the term Ortberg uses - "languishing." "Languishing is the condition of someone who may be able to function but has lost a sense of hope and meaning." There are many who simply need to open up their hearts to the possibility of hope - that God really does have a better plan for them than they are experiencing right now.
The Me I Am Meant To Be
In my ministry I have had the privilege of watching the lives of people being transformed. I've seen families with long-standing problems and on the verge of breakup be turned around and become life-giving. I've seen alcoholics and drug addicts discover that God actually did have a better plan for them. I've seen negative, critical people with a chip on their shoulder be changed into positive role models. How? By opening themselves up to God's design for their lives.
I've also seen people stubbornly keep up appearances, putting on the facade of religiousity so that they could look good in the community - but never finding the very purpose for which they were created. So close and yet so far... Saint Irenaeus wrote, "The glory of God is a human being fully alive; and to be alive consists in beholding God."
What has helped you connect with God and his purpose for your life?
Book Review: "The Me I Want To Be"
Why don't you like me?
Made For Relationship
The Power of the Mind
Developing Great Habits