My time at the High Calling has come to a close. Today is my last day as managing editor there, and now I’ve got lots of space in my days to focus on writing Book 2. My final article for the High Calling published earlier this week, and I’d like to share it with you here, in its entirety. I hope it meets you in a good place as we unwrap a new year:
“My mother told me that she liked the idea of the west, of the frontier, of going there to make a fresh start. I liked the idea too. In the west, I would be popular. I would reinvent myself. Nobody would know that back in Michigan, I’d been a nerd. And best yet, I would attend Fairview High School, where a junior named Holly had just won the Seventeen cover model contest. I had the issue upstairs in my room, carefully filed in a little library of teendom.”
Oh, how I can relate to these words from Susan Burton, in a recent episode of This American Life. At the same time Susan was moving from Michigan, I was moving toMichigan. My dad had accepted a promotion at his job, which meant our family would be packing up and moving from our little yellow house on a cul-de-sac on the East Coast, all the way to a suburban neighborhood just outside Detroit.
I had moved a lot in my young life, but most of the moving had taken place when I was just a toddler—while my dad was still in the Army—so I had no memory of the packing up, moving to a new location, and starting a new life in a new place. When, at ten years old, I was told we’d be moving, I don’t think I truly knew what that meant. I mean, I knew I’d be getting a new bedroom. I knew there was some possibility I might even get a puppy. But the concept which seemed to fascinate me most of all was the idea of moving to a place where no one knew me. As I saw it, I was getting a chance to make myself over, in the image I—at ten years old—deemed best for me.
And who could blame me?
From the beginning of time, we have been in a quest to take charge of our image, our destiny, our lot in life. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were lured away from the goodness of God’s best in search of some alternative to the plan God had in mind. When the serpent enticed them with empty promises and deceitful motivation, the neophyte couple—despite having been gifted with the joy of an unfettered relationship with God—fell for the lie that they were not enough and that there was something more they needed for all to be right in their world.
We get this. In fact, each year we practice some form of this search for a “better me” as we embark on the custom of making New Year resolutions. Researchers tell us 45 percent of Americans usually make a resolution at the beginning of a new year, with another 17 percent making resolutions infrequently. What are we resolving to do (or not to do)? Take a look at this list of Top 10 Resolutions for 2015:
- Lose weight
- Get organized
- Spend less, save more
- Enjoy life to the fullest
- Stay fit and happy
- Learn something exciting
- Quit smoking
- Help others in their dreams
- Fall in love
- Spend more time with family
I don’t think any of us would argue with these resolutions, right? There is nothing inherently bad in any of the resolutions on this list. And there is tons of research offering suggestions for making our resolutions stick. This is especially helpful in light of the fact that keeping our resolutions becomes increasingly difficult as time goes on. Six months after embarking on one of the changes in the list above, only 46 percent of people are still hanging in there with those changes. Our idea of change is so much easier than the actual implementation of those changes.
Which brings me back to that story of me, and my family’s move to Michigan. When I learned we were moving, I was enthralled at the prospect of a fresh start, a chance to be a better version of myself. But, when I arrived in Michigan, while I may have had a brand new bedroom (no puppy, though), I was still the same me. In my heart, at the core of who I’ve always been, is the person God created me to be. Over time, of course, I’ve matured, I’ve learned how to navigate the different seasons of life, I’ve made mistakes, and I’ve had successes. But, at the core of me, is me. And, over the years, I’ve learned that old adage is true: Wherever you go, there you are.
That’s not all bad.
So many times, our attempts at making resolutions, turning over a new leaf, or charting a new path have their roots in a belief that the person God created us to be is not enough. I’m not talking about being perfect. The Bible teaches us perfection comes only through Jesus Christ and his substitutionary death on our behalf. We are not perfect. But, the person God created you to be is more than enough to cause him to rejoice over you with singing. God takes great delight in you. He’s not waiting for you to lose a few pounds or quit smoking or be a better steward of your resources in order for him to love you.
I didn’t know that when I was ten years old, and sometimes I forget it, even all these years later. God doesn’t want me to be a different person; what God is calling forth from me is more of me. The same is true for you. You’ve been uniquely designed to impact this world as only you can. Our attempts at changing ourselves and the way we live our lives should be guided by the one who gave us life, rather than motivated by a false sense of acceptability determined by culture or our neighbors or the people we see on TV. Our growth and transformation should be in response to the work of the Holy Spirit in us and not governed by the cover of a magazine or the events in a thirty-minute makeover show.
When we celebrate the unique person God created us to be—scientific, creative, introspective, zany, quirky, thoughtful, extroverted, compassionate, and more—we honor the Creator. And, when we offer that celebration up to God, he receives it as worship. When we let God direct the transformations in our lives—through his word, through other believers, and through the work of the Holy Spirit—the transformation sticks, despite what the latest scientific research might predict about that.
Over the next few months, I’ll be transitioning to a new phase of my own life, away from The High Calling. While I’m not completely sure about all the details ahead, I do know that God has a plan for me in the days to come. I don’t need to make myself over into someone else in order to fit into his plan. Instead, leaning into God’s deep love for me (as me), I trust him to transform me as he sees fit—through my experiences, by his word, and by the work of the Spirit of God in me—to be more like his son, Jesus. And, whatever the days ahead hold for you, know that you are enough, just as you are. Celebrate the person God created you to be, and let that be worship to him. Let go. You don’t have to try so hard to be someone you were never meant to be. Instead, watch God transform you for his glory, and for good.