I remember after my freshman year in college I was traveling to Maryland from my home in Georgia to work as a camp counselor for the summer. I had a 24-hour bus ride, as I remember, and during that long ride I made a decision to change my personality. I was going to a place where no one knew me, so I had the perfect opportunity to be whoever I wanted to be, or so I thought.
I decided that instead of being the out-going, assertive, take-charge type that I had been all my life, I would become the quiet, reserved, undemonstrative type of person. It seemed to me that this kind of personality was a much better one than the one I had. I’m sure part of my decision was based on my feelings that the boys liked the quiet type more than the out-going type, but I also remember a girl in my dorm at school who was quiet, and it seemed everybody liked her. So, I figured if I were more like her, I’d be nicer, more likable and more successful. And I really thought that God wanted every woman to be like her.
I sat on that bus all those hours and determined that there was no reason I couldn’t be just like the girl in my dorm. All I had to do was set my mind to it, and I could change my whole personality. Here was my perfect chance, and I was committed to doing just that.
I can still remember those first few days at the camp, as I concentrated so hard on being someone else. I had to think about it all the time, so that I would remember to be different. Mostly I just forced myself to be quiet, but instead of impressing people with how nice I was, they thought I was unfriendly. I really tried hard to be just like my friend at school, but let me tell you, I failed miserably. I could only keep it up a few short days, and the effect was not a good change in my personality, but rather it made me look and feel phony, which of course, was true.
I suppose we’ve all been through similar experiences, when we’ve tried to be like someone else, instead of being ourselves. I would imagine that some of you are unhappy with who you are right now and find yourself wanting to be different. Maybe, like me, you’ve tried to change your personality and found it doesn’t seem to work.
Did you ever stop and think about what it really means when you try to be like someone else? It means you think God made a mistake in the way he made you. It means you would have created yourself differently if you’d had a choice. It demonstrates a lack of trust in God’s wisdom; it says you think God was either wrong or cruel to make you the way you are.
Now, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to improve and get better and learn from others, but I’m talking about when we desire to be totally different than we are. When that’s our attitude, it’s really like a slap in God’s face because we’re convinced he didn’t give us a fair shake.
I want to encourage you to remember that you are unique; there’s no one else like you in the whole world. God is so infinitely creative, that he’s able to give each of us unique traits and personalities, and he has designed you to be yourself. He has a purpose for you that no one else could exactly fulfill. He wants your personality, your type, to do a certain job in the Kingdom of God.
You are God’s canvas, and scripture tells us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, that God knit us together in our mother’s womb, that he is intimately acquainted with us down to counting the hairs on our heads, and we are each created in his image. Now, just put all those facts in your head, and consider what that means.
First of all, you’re not a mistake. You’ve all heard little jokes like “When God was giving out brains, he forgot you.” Or “When God was giving out looks you thought he said books and you said, ‘I don’t want any.’“ Well, maybe those jokes aren’t as harmless as they seem, because they teach a basic untruth. God didn’t make a mistake when he designed you. You were planned in the mind of God. It was not a haphazard coming together of atoms or molecules; you’re not an accident of nature. You are designed according to God’s plan.
Secondly, what you are is like what God is. You are created in the image of God. Now, don’t confuse this with New Age teaching which says we’re all gods. That certainly is not true. But it is true that we are all created in God’s image. That means that God has traits like me. Part of God’s personality is just like my personality, because I’m created in his image. I’m out-going, assertive, entrepreneurial, energetic—so is God, for I’m created in his image.
I want you to think about that, because it is very important that you understand this basic truth of scripture. It will change your whole attitude toward who you are. I remember when it first began to dawn on me that God had given me this personality for a purpose. What looked to me like a big mistake was not at all so.
I began little by little to accept that God had made me just this way for some purpose. He has given me gifts and abilities that he intends to be used in his Kingdom for his glory. And as I’ve become more and more comfortable with who I am and the way I’ve been created, then I’ve learned to enjoy and appreciate who I am. You know, I don’t think I’d really want to be anyone else any longer. I like the way God created me.
Now, it’s okay to say that. It’s okay for you to say that about yourself. Go ahead; say it: I like the way God created me. All you’re doing is affirming that God doesn’t make mistakes, and you are pleased with his creation. That’s not pride, assuming your heart attitude is correct. That is simply thanking God for his creativity and recognizing that his creation is good.
When you don’t like who you are, you become something you are not, which is phony, uncomfortable and ineffective, and you never realize the wonderful potential of what God created you to be.
But as soon as you can accept yourself and believe that God has made you for special and unique purposes, then you’re free. Now, the person God has created starts to shine through beautifully, now you begin to see just why God made you the way you are, now you discover that there was a lot there you didn’t even recognize before. God is free to work in and through you, when you’re free to say, “Thank you, Jesus, you didn’t make a mistake when you made me. Now, please take what you have made and use it for the purposes you intended.”
One of my favorite verses in Ephesians 2:10 (NLT):
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
When an artist creates a painting, and it is a good painting, what do we say about the painting? We say, “What a wonderful painting; that artist is very good.” Who gets credit for the painting? The artist, of course. We don’t give the painting credit—that would be silly. It is nothing but a blank canvas until that artist turns it into a thing of beauty.
This verse sums up who we are and what we are here to do in one very important and very concise statement. First of all, we are God’s masterpiece. Another version says we are God’s workmanship. If you create something, it belongs to you. As God’s canvas, we are not our own, we belong to him. We were created by him and for him.
The apostle Paul writes that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and we are not our own; we belong to Christ. No doubt you have heard that and you would most likely agree with it. But the question is—do we live our daily lives as though we don’t belong to ourselves, but to God?
I have to admit there are far too many days when I live for myself; I live as though I created me and I belong to me, therefore I make decisions and choices that I want for myself. But when I begin to really live out this truth—that I am not my own, I am God’s canvas—then it changes my priorities. I look at my options differently. I seek clear guidance from God’s Word as to my choices and decisions.
This verse also tells me that as a believer in Jesus Christ, a woman who has been born from above by the power of God through faith in Christ, I have been made new. He created us anew in Christ Jesus. The old has gone, the new has come. Have you been created anew in Christ? That’s what Jesus was talking about when he told Nicodemus, “You must be born again” (John 3:7b). You need to be created anew. It is that new creation that then becomes God’s canvas on which he paints his masterpiece.
And then this verse tells me why he created you and me; why we are here—to do the good works he planned for us to do. That means that God has a list of good things for you to do, explicitly for you, and your reason for being here is to know and do those good things.
I look at other people very different from me, and I’m so glad God made them the way they are. I’m well aware that it would not have been good if everyone were just like me. We need this balance, we need the different types and personalities. Thank God we’re not all alike. When we learn to appreciate who we are, we also can appreciate others so much more.
Now when I see people whose personalities and gifts I admire, I can just enjoy them for who they are. I don’t have to compete with them, I don’t have to feel jealous or envious, because I know that they are unique for God’s purposes and so am I.
One of my dear friends recently had to learn this lesson all over again. She has been speaking to women’s groups for years, and God has used her mightily in many lives. Her style is very open and vulnerable; it is a style based on the personality God has given her, and she has helped so many people because of it.
But she decided on one occasion to use someone’s else speaking style, because she knew it was good and effective, and she wanted to be like her. So, she tried, and predictably, it didn’t work. She was trying to force herself into someone else’s mold, and she felt uncomfortable. As a result, she was not nearly as effective as she usually is. So, again, she learned the lesson that God has created her one way, and the other person another, but both are needed and she doesn’t have to be like anyone else in order to be effective for the Lord.
God wants you to be pleased with the way he has created you, for it shows that you trust him. But let me add that learning to accept who we are doesn’t mean we give up on trying to improve. While it’s true God has given me a certain type of personality, it’s also true that my personality has a lot of rough edges which need polishing. We have to understand that sin has affected God’s perfect creation, and so until we get to heaven, our personalities are damaged by the sin factor. While learning to accept that I am created especially by God just the way I am, I also know that I must continually allow God to file down the rough edges in me, the things about my personality which are not Christ-like.
We read in Genesis 1 that God looked at what he had created and said, “It is good.” He created you the way you are, and he looked at you and said, “It is good.” Can you not, then, trust your loving Creator and believe that the way he created you is good?
Have you been trying so hard to be someone else? Have you felt as though what you are was second-best, a mistake? Maybe this is a good time to ask God to forgive you for not trusting his creativity in you, and give him permission to polish the personality given to you by God for eternal and significant purposes. If you will do that, and continue to do that each day, you’re going to discover incredible and marvelous freedom, and the real you God has created will be a joy to everyone, including yourself.
You are God’s masterpiece; he desires to paint a beautiful picture with your life. Are you settling for something so much less than God’s great design in you and for you?