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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

WHO AM I?

by Thelma Copeland


“You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13, NIV).

Have you ever wondered who you are? Have you believed everything you have ever heard about yourself? Is there one opinion that matters more? Did anyone confirm the opinion? Was it positive or negative? Do you believe it or are you just meeting expectations? Who are you? I wonder how many people ever find the answer to these questions.

In the book The Help by Kathryn Stockett, the character Abilene repeats a mantra to a little girl named Mae Mobley. Though it is simple, it is incredibly profound. “You is kind, you is smart, you is important.” Simple. Straight to the point. Why does Abilene tell this to Mae Mobley several times throughout the book? I think that Abilene wants to make sure someone lets that little girl know her worth. If Abilene accomplishes nothing else, she wants Mae Mobley to know that someone loves her and believes she is kind, smart, and important. Those are extremely essential traits to know about one’s self, especially at an early and crucial age.  

When forming new relationships, either with friends or potential mates, we feel the need or are asked to describe ourselves. How can you, if you are uncertain about the answer? You may think it can be found in who your friends are, who you love and marry, your choice of school, or your career, but I do not believe any of those things can explain the depth of a person. They may have relevance to an individual’s qualities, but can they examine the inner conscience or hidden longings? You may do some soul-searching or explore new places and experiment with new trends, but in the end you may only discover who you think people want you to be and go on pretending as if that is who you are. What a tragic conclusion to submit to.

As children, we are taught how to act or how to behave. We are told what is and what is not appropriate or acceptable. Those things are not inherently evil on their own, but when those opinions spill over and begin to shape one’s self-image, they can become detrimental and destructive. Instead of forming our own ideas and behavior, we are being taught by the standards of another, often trusted, person and we learn to adjust depending on who we are with.

To compensate for our perceived flaws, we create a variety of interchangeable masks. We have masks for our family and friends, the mask we present on social media, a mask for work or school, and the mask we put on for strangers. They each have their place and assist in helping us to blend into whichever group we are associated with at any given time. Which one of those masks do you wear for God? Is one the best, most perfect representation of yourself to present before God? 

The truth is, none of them are sufficient. He wants you. Just you. The real you.

The 2nd verse of Natalie Grant’s song, The Real Me, says,
“Painted on, life is behind a mask
Self-inflicted circus clown I’m tired of the song and dance
Living a charade, always on parade…”

“Always on parade.” We are performers. We put on a show. In times of struggle or heartache, do we not tell ourselves “the show must go on”? When did it become offensive to be true, to be real, and be ourselves? Who decided that we needed masks?

A line from the chorus of The Real Me says,
“There’s no need to mask my frailty
‘cause you see the real me.”

What does that mean? It means that no matter which mask we choose, no matter what hairstyle, clothing brand, or makeup we wear, no matter how smart we think we are or how many people we can fool, we will never be able to hide our true selves from God. He sees us. He knows us. The REAL us.

There’s an old adage that says, “If you are told something about yourself enough times, you start to believe it.” That is absolutely true. Tell someone they are ugly or stupid or worthless enough times and they will begin to live as if they are all those things and more. On the other hand, if you tell someone they are beautiful, intelligent, and valuable, they will walk in confidence and endeavor to exhibit those attributes. If then, an individual learns, comprehends, and accepts what God says, they can and will live a life that reflects those things. Eleanor Roosevelt is quoted as saying, “Remember, no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” What a remarkable truth! We allow others to make us feel second-rate. The power is within us to relinquish that control and change. God doesn’t tells us to dislike ourselves, we do. In the book, Healing for Damaged Emotions by Dr. David Seamands, he writes about self-esteem and how to overcome the past hurts and rejoice in God’s love. Because we allow others to program our minds into feeling inadequate, we begin to believe it, then, as Dr. Seamands says, “once you become critical of the design, it isn’t long until you feel resentful toward the Designer.”

It is important to hear positive compliments from our family and peers; however, it is much more important to know and understand what God says about you. Dr. Seamands continues in a later chapter encouraging us to “Take Your Self-Estimate from God.” He writes, “What right have you to belittle or despise someone whom God loves so deeply? Don’t say, ‘Well, I know God loves me, but I just can’t stand myself.’ That’s a travesty of faith, an insult to God and His love.” “What right have you to belittle or despise someone whom God has honored so highly? ‘Consider the incredible love that the Father has shown us in allowing us to be called “children of God”’ (1 John 3:1). What I love most about Dr. Seamand's writing is that he backs it up with Scripture. This isn’t just the opinion of a man, it is the Word of God.

Some of the most well-known figures from Scripture asked the question “who am I?” Moses asked this question in Exodus 3:11 as did David in 2 Samuel 7:18. “Then King David went in and sat before the Lord and prayed, ‘Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?’” Let these words be a reminder that you are not alone. It would be quite the feat to find a person who hasn’t asked that question at some point and possibly even more difficult to find a believer who has never asked that of God.

If those words are not enough, here are more…
1 Thessalonians 1:4 reads, “For we know, brothers and sisters, loved by God, that he haschosen you…” (NIV, emphasis mine). Psalm 45:11 says, “Let the king be enthralled by your beauty…” (NIV). Synonyms of the word “enthralled” are: captivated, enchanted, beguiled, mesmerized, etc. The king calls you beautiful! Song of Solomon 4:1 in the NLT reads, “You are beautiful my darling, beautiful beyond words…” The list just goes on and on. You are a child of God (John 1:12), a friend of Jesus (John 15:15), you are justifiedand redeemed (Revelation 3:24), free (Romans 8:2), a joint-heir with Christ (Romans 8:17), accepted (Romans 15:7), a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), complete(Colossians 2:10), an overcomer (Revelation 12:11), healed (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24), and so much more.

Psalm 139:13 tells us that God
“…created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”
Never forget, He took great care to form you with His hands; therefore, the real you, is exactly who you were meant to be.

I will conclude this with a personal testimony. Over the past year I have been on a journey of healing. Healing I didn’t know was possible. Healing I didn’t believe would work. Healing that seemed too hard to attempt. God has changed my perception of myself and of Him. I never felt like I was angry at God, but I did question His choice in creating me. I wondered why God, so magnificent, would create a lowly person such as me. I knew stories of God using unqualified people, but that was different, wasn’t it? I did not believe that God could use me to do anything because I was not good enough at anything to be used. Then I learned that we must begin with ourselves. We are our first ministry. I had to become healed of my damaged emotions, reprogram my thought processes, learn to use my gifts as gifts and not feel shackled by them as burdens. I needed to be my first fruit (John 15:5). In that way, I am more available to be used by God and can hopefully help others on their journey. My heart has been designed to reach out and make sure others don’t waste as much of their lives feeling like I did. I want others to be free, to be changed, and to be used. I am in no way finished with my journey, but I can say that I have come farther than I ever thought possible. All because God prepared me, sent me the right person to encourage me, and I finally allowed Him to work. God told me a long time ago what He wanted me to do, but I was too scared and felt too inferior to actually do it. I may not reach the professional level that I once thought was my goal and that’s perfectly fine with me, but I am ready and willing to continue working on me until He sends me the first woman to encourage and guide on the journey to healing.

Always remember that you are not alone, you are not too bad, you’ve not fallen too far, and you are never beyond repair, because He is right there.

More Scripture references: Jeremiah 23:23-24, Psalm 34:8, Isaiah 43:2, Zephaniah 3:17, Matthew 28:20, 1 Corinthians 3:16, John 14:18.

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