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Ideal or Idol? July 21, 2010

Posted by orualundone in Identity, Lifescripts, Personal, Prayer, Struggles.
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As I’ve mentioned before I have a difficult time being still in my heart and praying honestly to God. One of the few times I am really able to do this well is while swimming (if only because I don’t own one of these and am forced to be alone in my own head for half an hour). The rhythm of the strokes, going under the water and coming back up again and again is like a form of meditation and my mind gets a little cleared of all the clutter that’s in it and I can focus on God.

I was asking him to show me how to be the person he made me to be, and I started mentally listing all the attributes I thought this person had that I currently didn’t have. And then it hit me. Who God wants me to be may not be the same as who I want to be.

Here’s the thing. I have a very clear idea of who I think I should be. This mythical person is organized, efficient, and always has a clean house. She never wastes time or sulks, and never worries about the future because she trusts God completely. She’s in good shape and sticks to a firm schedule of exercise and a tight frugal budget. She doesn’t stress eat or self-medicate through shopping or TV watching. She reads the Bible and prays every morning, and always finishes the projects she starts. She’s outgoing, not afraid of social situations, and a natural leader. She doesn’t talk too much or too loudly and is a great listener. She manages her time well and juggles work, family, home, church, and friends effortlessly. She’s always gracious and diplomatic, and never temperamental or impatient. She also makes all her own cleaning products and cosmetics and never eats anything that isn’t both organic and locally grown. Oh, and she speaks several languages and can play a musical instrument.

I am not that person. Not remotely. And she may not be at all the person God wants me to be. I am beginning to think that by striving so hard to be like that, I might be preventing myself from learning who God wants me to be. Not that there is anything wrong with any of those qualities (although taken as a whole she sounds a little insufferable, actually), or that I shouldn’t want to be more organized or disciplined or to get in shape or to learn French. But when I focus on trying to transform into that person, without consulting God on the matter, I am turning this ideal into an idol. Not to mention that this sort goal-oriented self improvement never works for me.

I have this idea in my head that if I can be all the good qualities in the world at once, I will be happy and perfect and who I’m supposed to be. But other than that being impossible, if that was what God really wanted he would have made us all the same. And he didn’t. Even the heroes of the Bible that are spoken of in the most glowing terms not only had weaknesses, but they also often had wildly different personalities; some bold, some timid, some patient, some impetuous. God made us different ways so he can use us in different ways, both in our unique strengths and our individual weaknesses. God shows himself at least as much, if not more, through our weaknesses.

Of course we should all desire to be more like him, but no one finite person can ever encompass the infinite. And instead of my choosing which qualities I think I should have to best reflect him, perhaps I should let him take care of that. Despite all the things I don’t particularly like about myself or wish were different, he made me like this for a reason. Some of my qualities he may use directly, some he may transform or change so that he can be glorified, and some I may just need to struggle with to learn a greater dependence on him. And I need to remember that he knew who I was supposed before I even existed:

“For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.”

-Psalm 139:13-16

Nothing about me is incidental or accidental. The is a purpose to even my deepest flaw and I have something to learn from everything about myself. Whether it is how to use a gift I have been ignoring or how to overcome an obstacle I have been dealing with my whole life, I am not meant just to toss aside my whole personality and attempt to remake myself in some image that I think is what would please God. That is me trying to control things again. There is nothing I can do to be more pleasing to God; he made me in the way that pleases him the most. Attempting to dictate that is the worst kind of arrogance. It is not for me to decide what God is to make of my life and my faith.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” – Ephesians 2:6


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