When You’re Not Who You Want To Be
When I was younger I loved arts and crafts kits and Lego.
I couldn’t wait to make the exact same finished product I saw on the cover. Except what I made never did look as perfect and amazing. I would normally even realize this half way through, get completely frustrated and give up no longer finding the building experience enjoyable.
I was watching a movie called “The Words” recently and one line really captured me.
“I’m not who I thought I was and I’m terrified that I never will be. I look at my life. I look at everybody’s life. It’s not right!”
Can we all just take a minute to be honest with each other about how hard life is, trembling in the wake of the fall? Can we take a minute to be real about how tired and worn we are from the work it takes to put off the old man?
“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.” Romans 7:18-20
For those whose prayers are wearing thin, for those who are losing their will to fight; I want to let you know: you are not alone. I too have labored and determined, too many times to count, to make something worthwhile out of Lego pieces only to tear it down again when it looks nothing like I thought it should. But when I have cried for the weight to be lifted, I am reminded of the secret: Christ is in me, not in a different set of circumstances. That it is not the environment that needs to change but my heart. Any change necessary needs only be in me dying to self. So it is no longer I who lives, but Christ in me – gloriously, powerfully and radically.
Peter, Christ’s disciple, was faithful and steady and though he was also impetuous, impulsive, brash, outspoken, loud, self-confident and even arrogant-he was rock solid in His love for Jesus. Why would Christ pick a man who at one point denied knowing Him? For the same reason He picks us. He sees potential in our lives. Though we fail, He knows what our lives contain and He wants to transform our brokenness and faults for His use. When I focus on my potential instead of the power of Christ, I grow weary and want to meddle with His plan. When I focus on the fruits I’m trying to grow rather than the One whom I am rooted in, I can not say with St Paul “I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses…for when I am weak, then I am strong.” Rather I despise the small growth and discontentment is a weed when it comes to doing the work that is mine and keeping the faith.
“Growth is always imperceptible. But the farmer exercises long patience in waiting for his crop. He has done his work… hence he waits quietly. If we could simply remember that this is true of everything– that God’s purposes are slowly being worked out for his glory and our good–we would, like the farmer, keep faith and wait quietly. “ Elisabeth Elliot
Peter’s most compelling characteristic wasn’t impulsiveness or outspokenness, but his willingness to change and in Jesus’ hands to become a person mightily used by God. And neither is your compelling characteristic your last sin or that one sin you fight daily like a cross you carry. What defines you is how much you are running to Him.
How much are you looking to Him for His promise of rest? How much are you fully experiencing the love of God that you are shaken down to your very core and crushed by grace to never go back, but only pursue Him forward?
What really matters about exercising patience with ourselves and the story of God’s transformation is that if we can’t trust boldly that He can change even our most stubborn personality traits and transform us into the person He has called us to be, how will we be able to find others worth loving when they are flawed? If we can’t be courageously grateful for the journey we are taking to His throne, though tumultuous and tortuous, how will we be grateful and excited for the masterpiece God is creating in the lives of those around us? Love is only patient if it’s first grateful. Patient people dare to gratefully accept people where they are. My failure to love is a failure to be grateful for who people are right now. My failure to love is failure to be patient living in the tension that while Christ demands of me more than I ever thought, He also offers me more than I ever dreamed. If we don’t want to even be on our own journey how will we ever expect to be part of others? If I see others fail to meet the potential I’ve expected from them filling the reason for their failing with a negative, prideful explanation how will I not also communicate on God’s behalf, wrongly believing He has given up on me, when I feel like I am not who I want to be? How can I not cast stones on others when their sins are exposed if I am the first person to cast stones on myself for my failures instead of crying out for Him to save me?
We are sojourners. When we are longing to be made into that magnificent building, let Him be the precious cornerstone. Let your aim be union with Him and bring Him your Lego pieces to lay them as He sees fits, at His pace. Bring him your regrets, your bad decisions, your wrong turns. Bring Him your loneliness and your failed hope. Your heart, all the sin you desire that you wish you didn’t and all the defiled things stored up in it that comes out in your words and what you pursue. Bring Him your battle scars and let Him love you in spite of them. His grace – His unmerited favour – is sufficient in your weakness. That in your darkest inadequacy, what He lavishes on you is enough to get you through. That you don’t need some smart invention, wondrous formula or human help but rather the gift of His love and redemption. He promises that it’s enough. Though weakness is all we have He adopts us into His family. We are His heirs, His children – sons and daughters of the Almighty. And that’s grace. It’s grace sufficient for us to try to be the things we will inevitably fail at yet to keep trying all the more. Christianity isn’t about good people getting better but good news for bad people coping with their failure to be good. In a little while the old man left within will be put to death and our whole heart will be His. In a little while, the battle will be won. There is beauty in brokenness because He is the God of bringing life out of death and even dry bones. The struggle is part of the story. Don’t give up. Don’t forget the most amazing thing about grace, is the chance to give it out.
“By this I mean: thou has not really known thyself as the object of My Love. And, as a result, thou hast not known what thou art in Me, nor all that is potentially in thee.
Wake up from out of thy sleep and from thy bad dreams. Thou seest thyself, in certain moments of truth, only the failures and the defeats, the falls, the defilements, perhaps the crimes. But all this is not thee. That is not thy real ‘self’, thy deepest ‘self’.
Under all that, behind all that, under thy skin and behind all thy transgressions and all thy failings, I Myself see thee.”
Father Lev Gillet