PROGRAM W-1775 – Part I
Do you sometimes feel like you’re pulled in two directions? I do. You see, I know from the Bible that as a believer I am to accept who I am in Christ and be content with the way God has designed me. I know I’m not supposed to compare myself to others and envy who they are or what they have. I know I am specially created by God like no one else and I must appreciate his handiwork in me.
But on the other hand, I also know there are many things about me that I should not accept. I see the blemishes and the defects and the areas of failure. I look at others who seem to have it much more together than I do, and know I should be like them. I know there is much room for improvement and needed maturity in some areas.
So, my dilemma is this: How do I accept who I am when who I am is not all I should be? How can I believe that I’m really special just the way I am when I know I’m a long way from completion?
It almost seems like mission impossible! It appears to be a paradox with no solution. On the one hand, I’m supposed to rejoice and celebrate who I am, while on the other hand, I’m daily aware of my inadequacies and shortcomings.
Here’s what I’m coming to understand: I truly must accept who I am and rejoice in how God has created and gifted me. But I must never settle for where I am in my growth and maturity. Accept, but don’t settle. As God has given me this new understanding, it has greatly helped to clear up my misunderstandings and apprehensions. I can do both at one time—accept and appreciate who I am in Christ while continually striving to grow more and more into what I was created to be.
Let’s look at some specific areas where we often have difficulty accepting who we are, but where we must also never settle for less than we can be.
The Bible tells me that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. God fashioned me in my mother’s womb, and he knew me before I was born. Therefore, I should accept and be content with how God’s hands made me and formed me, because God doesn’t make mistakes.
Lots of us have negative eyesight—you know what I mean? We look in the mirror and all we see are the negatives:
Oh, this hair; if only it were shorter or longer or thicker or thinner or blonde or brunette.
Oh, this face; if I just had higher cheek bones, or could get rid of this double chin, or had a smaller nose.
Oh, this body; if only I had longer legs, or thinner thighs, or smaller hips, or some kind of waistline!
Now, tell the truth, don’t we often tend to focus on the negatives? In our society, we’ve been led to think that the thin, shapely female body is the only acceptable one. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you the damage we’ve done to ourselves by swallowing this line of thinking. Anorexia and bulimia are two modern-day serious problems some women have because of their obsessions with trying to make their bodies perfect.
I want to encourage you to accept the body God has given you. God has his purposes for your body just the way he created it. I think of my dear friend, Fran, who is now with Jesus. She was just barely five feet tall. All her life she was the shortest one around. But God used her size to enlarge her ministry. You see, because she was short and cute, her appearance was rarely threatening or intimidating to anyone. It made it easier for her to make friends—and she made friends with everybody. In two seconds she would have you laughing and know all about you and you would love her. Combined with her personality, that short stature was a tool in God’s hands, and God used her in very special ways. It is not a mistake that she was a very short person.
Not all of us were created with thin bodies, like the magazines depict as the shape to be. How crazy that we’ve allowed this culture to define only one shape that is considered credible and beautiful. It’s obvious that God likes all kinds of shapes—just look around you. How dull this world would be if we all came in one size and shape. No, there are many varieties of body shapes which are God-designed.
Accept the body, face, size, and shape which God has given you. He has a reason and a purpose. Accept, but don’t settle. Keep that body running on all cylinders. Do everything you can to keep it healthy. Exercise as you know you should. Get rid of some of those harmful eating habits. Accept your body, but don’t settle for anything less than the best it can be.
While we don’t want to get caught up in this world’s paranoid pursuit of the perfect body, we do want to be found faithful in taking care of what God has given us. This is an area where I struggle a lot, but I’ve made it a matter of prayer for years now—that God would strengthen me to do the things I know I should do for the sake of keeping my body strong and healthy, and yes, looking as good as possible. I hate exercise, but I do it. The Apostle Paul teaches us to bring our bodies into subjection so that we can run our race to the end and win the prize.
We don’t often categorize our physical well-being as a spiritual matter, but it is. We will be held accountable for how well we’ve used our resources of physical strength and durability. The condition of your physical body has a direct relationship to your effectiveness in doing what God has called you to do. When your body is brought into subjection—disciplined through diet and exercise—then you are much more energized and capable of fulfilling your tasks and duties, and your gifts and talents are greatly enhanced.
I think of this often because I don’t want to run out of gas. I don’t want to be prohibited from ministry because my body fails me. Now, there are some physical problems over which you and I have no control. But to a great extent, our behavior and discipline determine how good we’re going to feel, how long we’re going to last, how clearly we can think, how fast we can react, and how much we can accomplish. You don’t want to settle for anything less than God’s best for you—right?
So, accept the way God created you, but don’t settle for anything less than you can be physically.
Another thing you need to accept is your own personality. Each of us is unique. God doesn’t make cookie-cutter Christians, and our personalities are a key part of our identity. Some of us are “people- people” while some are “project people.” Some of us are out-going and gregarious. Others are reserved and quiet. Some are leaders; others are followers. There are many variations in the personalities God has given us.
Each personality has its strengths. For example, a gregarious, out-going person makes friends easily and puts people at ease. But the quiet, reserved person is a very good listener whom people turn to when they need a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen. Because they are quiet, they rarely hurt people’s feelings or cause confrontations. They are often peacemakers.
Now, tell the truth: Are you content with the personality God has given you? Do you even know what it’s like? You should, and you should appreciate that personality. I’ve mentioned how for many years I thought my take-charge entrepreneur type personality was a mistake; it seemed to me that women shouldn’t be like me. In fact, as a college student I tried once to change my personality. I thought by a set of my will I could be like some other girls at my college who seemed to have more appropriate personalities than I did. The effort did not succeed; in fact, it was a total flop. Not only did I fail to change my personality, but I came off as phony and insincere—which of course I was!
But I’ve come to really appreciate the personality that God has given to me, as unusual as it may be at times, and I like the way God has made me. I don’t have a need to be like other women any longer and, of course, that is great freedom. It also means I can appreciate others much more because I’m not comparing myself to them. It releases me from jealousy and envy.
However, one thing I never want to do is settle for my personality the way it is. I want to be happy with who I am but not where I am in my growth. I know that there are some serious personality flaws which accompany my personality, and it is my responsibility to be aware of these personality flaws and to work on them.
Being a project-oriented person doesn’t give me an excuse for being insensitive to people. Just because I’m a doer, I still must take time for meditation, planning, and quiet time. My personality is the talker type; I have no problem talking—as you can tell. But I must learn to listen even though it doesn’t come naturally to me.
It’s true for all of us—our personalities have strengths and weaknesses. We must be able to appreciate the strengths and enjoy who we are, but never be content with the flaws which are inherent in our personalities. We can’t use that old excuse, “Well, that’s just the way I am!” I’ve noticed when we use that cop-out phrase, it’s usually an excuse for not facing our personality flaws and an unwillingness to make needed changes.
It’s important that the two go together: Accepting and settling. You see, when you can truly accept and appreciate the good things about the way God created your personality, then you are not destroyed to discover that there are some weaknesses which exist. If you’re not willing to face your personality weaknesses, it could be because you haven’t yet learned to appreciate your personality strengths. The two go together.
Second Corinthians 3:18 says we are being transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ with ever-increasing glory. You don’t have to change your personality to be transformed into the likeness of Jesus. You just have to polish the rough edges and continually work on the weak areas.
Do you know the weak areas of your own personality? You should. Then regularly pray that God will help you accept that personality, but never settle for anything less than being like Jesus.
There is wonderful freedom in accepting who you are. Freedom from having to live up to other’s expectations—or even your own. Freedom from having to be like others or compete with others. Freedom from the need to prove to the world that you are someone special, because you already know you’re someone special to God. It really takes the monkey off your back!