Many have written and preached about identity, but what exactly is it? According to 2 Corinthians 5:17, if anyone is in Christ, a new Creation has come; the old is gone, the new is here!
While this is indeed good news, to a person unfamiliar with or resistant to the faith, there is an undercurrent about it that is terrifying. Jesus says in Matthew 16:24: Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Me.
If you are a non-believer, perhaps a fallen world full of painful suffering and fickle people led you to believe you can only rely on yourself. Perhaps you went to church in the past…maybe even “got saved” and followed all the “rules.” Yet you were deeply hurt by people associated with the church, or were simply hurt so unjustly that you wondered how could these Christians could be all happy and joyous all the time, as if God clearly did favor them and you were left to the dogs. But cheer up…even the dogs get the crumbs! (Yes, I am totally serious…see Matt. 15:27).
And let’s not forget the negative representations of Christians in mainstream media…some distorted collage of Westboro Baptist Church, priests molesting little boys, and backwoods tea-partiers. Why associate yourself with these people?
To kick off this blog…what better place to tackle this issue then revealing my own journey. I can tell you with absolute honesty that I had these fears, and still do. Because I am a huge nerd and feminist, the thought of becoming a Christian was akin to assimilation with the Borg from Star Trek or some other type of hive consciousness. I would have no freedom, no thoughts of my own. I had a conception of a Christian woman as some sort of Stepford wife….always submissive and baked the perfect banana bread.
The shiny, happy girl with straight hair, delicate cross pendant, and modest pastel sundress was descriptive of most of the Christian girls I knew, but seemed completely alien to me. I grew up as an awkward, geeky girl with few friends and was bullied over my appearance. My parents divorced and the fallout from it was traumatic. Relatives abused me. My heart had hardened by third grade, when I publicly announced “God is not real.” I remember saying it on a playground, and a girl overheard me and was horrified. I was diagnosed with major depression, and still struggle to this day with it.
Like any other white suburban kid who does not fit in, I buried myself in intellectualism. I spun into a comforting cocoon of rationality, cynicism, and independence. I embraced my depression and all things dark. I was goth and emo before it was cool. I wrote bad poetry and angsty songs. I threw myself into art. My creativity was fueled by my anger and moodiness. I was driven to succeed, and was always on the honor roll. I was determined to have an impactful career as an artist, writer, or psychologist.
After college and entering the real world, I found that this mindset was not working. The outward anger I had at my tormenters that motivated me to achieve turned into a self-loathing so solid that the Holy Spirit has barely chiseled the surface to this day. I struggled to find a job with no experience, and it was a lowly job I would end up stuck in for 5 years. I tried in my power to get out of it, but doors were not opening.
My best friend at the time had recently become a Christian, and one day I just broke down sobbing in front of her. I probably did this several times. I wanted to know where I went wrong. I had performed to the world’s standards of what would land me success, and it didn’t. People who slacked off in school were getting ahead in their careers, and it just wasn’t fair, dammit! She told me that I was never supposed to rely on myself or the world’s system; it was through Christ that I would be empowered.
I was at rock bottom and had exhausted everything in my power. Resistance was futile.
Isaiah 55 states: why spend money on what is not bread (v.2) when you can listen to [Him]; listen that you may live (v.3). In other words, we must deny ourselves, but in doing so, we free ourselves from the rat race. It’s the Biblical interpretation of “lose yourself to find yourself”, except less New Age-y as we drift towards Christ rather than into the ether or some vague collective consciousness. The freedom lies in Christ’s sacrifice so we could have eternal life though Salvation (John 3:16), fulfill the Law (Romans 10:4), and draw closer to God through the Holy Spirit (John 14:26)
So, now that I am a Christian, does that mean I have traded my dark clothes for pastel sweater sets? That I stop listening to my dark music? That I become prim and never passionate? No way, although I am open to the renewal of my mind through my journey as a Christian (Romans 12:2). But it is a “renewal”, which Webster’s hints is a repetitive process, not a complete deviation from how God shaped me.
Contrary to my fears, by becoming a Christian, I have not assimilated with the Borg. God calls us to be “willing and obedient” (Isaiah 1:19). If he wanted robots, we would simply be “obedient.” I have often found that “robots” who find their identity through obedience, rather than their relationship with God, will eventually short-circuit.