Identity Crisis

Looking back over my 22 years on earth, I see a lot of different things that I have done.  I also see the different people that I have been along the way.  Maybe that doesn’t make sense to you.  Let me explain…

Throughout my life, if you asked me to describe myself, my answers would be different based on what I was into in that moment, or who I was trying to be.  I remember in elementary school, I thought I was THE smartest kid in the whole school.  So, in order to prove my intellectual superiority, I entered into the 3rd grade spelling bee.  I studied a little, my mom quizzed me and whatnot, so I felt very confident going in.  Obviously, I was a little nervous, there was going to be a lot of people there.

*I take the stage behind the podium for the first word.*

“Michael, your word is museum.”

“Ok… m-u-s-u-e-m.”

“That’s incorrect.  The correct spelling is m-u-s-e-u-m.”

*I start crying as I walk to my mom.*

Well, that was disappointing.  Later one of my teachers said, I bet you’ll never forget how to spell that word, will you?  She was right, I didn’t.  Why do teachers have to be right all of the time?  They’re like moms, moms are always right.

So I was determined to take my rightful place among the top spellers in the land.  I entered into the 4th grade spelling bee.  I studied exponentially more.  My mom quizzed me a whole bunch.  I was ready.  I felt like Rocky Balboa before his fight with Ivan Drago (Rocky IV).  I glided through the first several rounds with ease.  This was my year, I just new it.  And it was down to me and my arch nemesis, Bianca.  This wasn’t the first time we had squared off, she was also impressive when it came to multiplication tables.

*I step to the podium*

“Michael, your word is collage.”

“uhh… (palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms heavy) c-o-l-a-u-g-e.”

“That is incorrect.  The correct spelling is c-o-l-l-a-g-e.”

*I step back.  Bianca steps to the podium.*

“Bianca, if you spell this correctly, you will win the spelling bee.  Your word is banana

“b-a-n-a-n-a”

*My heart burns with rage.*

I know what you’re thinking, totally unfair, right?  SHE SHOULD HAVE HAD TO SPELL COLLAGE!!!  I had been snubbed, yet again, by my imperfections and a broken system.  This was unjust to say the least.  To make it worse, my little brother Joel won the 2nd grade spelling bee in a landslide, then the 3rd grade, then the 4th.

If I actually look deeper at why I was so upset, I realize that these were not simple losses of spelling bees, they were losses of my identity.

Throughout middle school and high school, I tried to find my identity in other things.  I tried to find my identity in football.  The thing about that was, I was no good at football.  And in high school, I was injured most of the time.  I also tried to find my identity in being the funny guy.  You know this type of person, they have to be the funniest person in the room at all times.  But someone always got more laughs than me.

In college, I tried to find my identity in being all Christian author-y.  I read Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz and wanted to be just like him.  I started a blog – this blog – to show my skills as a writer.  I read Shane Claiborne’s The Irresistible Revolution, and I wanted to be just like him.  I started wearing bandanas to show how pacifistic I was.  I thought that being a pacifist was the coolest.

See, I was so busy trying to be all of these different things, that somewhere along the way, I forgot to be me.

One of my favorite quotes from the recent Olympic season is from Simone Biles (I know, you were expecting America’s new hero and role model, Ryan Lochte. /s).  In an interview, Simone Biles, darling of the U.S.A., made the statement, “I’m not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps, I’m the first Simone Biles.”  It would be easy for her to feel some need to get as many medals as Phelps or Bolt, or to accept that she is another exceptional Olympic athlete who should be mentioned in the same sentence as those two icons.  Biles is a terrific athlete, and there has never been another like her.  Despite all of that, she is focused on being the best Simone Biles that she can be.

That is the point isn’t it!?  God has made us all unique and different!

We do ourselves and the Kingdom of God a disservice when we place our identity in anything other than being children of God existing for the redemption of the world.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its parts form one body, so it is with Christ.    1 Corinthians 12:12

We are all differently gifted and blessed by God to serve in ways that only we can!  We are members of the body of Christ, created for a specific purpose, and together, God will do powerful things.

 

Peace and Blessings,

-Michael

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my.. I mean thy… will be done

So I guess I would describe my current season of life as a season of waiting.

In my current situation, I have learned a lot about myself.  Waiting for things tends to do that.  See, when we wait for things, we often like to pass the time doing something to keep out minds busy about other things until the time comes to do whatever it is that we’re waiting to do.  Go ahead, next time you’re waiting on anything, see what you do.  I almost always pull out the phone.  That’s pretty much a go-to.  It’s safe, and strangely it has become completely socially acceptable to bury my head in my phone in the dentist’s waiting room, when I’m waiting on someone to meet me, or even at times when there is a lull in conversation.  I do not say this to condone my behavior, I am just making an observation as to something that I do that maybe you relate to.  ANYWAYS, the point is when we’re waiting, we like to keep our minds preoccupied with other things, as opposed to facing the strangeness and potentially awkward experience of waiting.  After all, what are we supposed to do?  Just sit and think?

Well by this point in what I would consider to be a prolonged period of waiting, I have pretty much exhausted all of my time-wasting options or gotten bored with them.  So now I sit here with questions.  Questions that I’m not sure I have a clear answer to.

For starters, when will this waiting end?

So you can better understand what I mean, let me explain.  I feel this calling to youth ministry, and I also feel a calling to do that as part of a church.  At this point, I want youth ministry to be my life’s work, and I need a church to support me in that; a church family to take me in and work with me to show the love of Jesus to teenagers both who are part of the church and those who are not yet part of the church.  I want to come alongside parents as they lead their children in faith.  So I’m waiting for a church to welcome this partnership.

So I am seeking these opportunities.  And I trust that God works in ways that I do not understand and cannot fathom, and I trust that it will work out for the best.  I’m also learning that the saying, “patience is a virtue” is true because virtues take practice, and patience certainly takes practice.  So I wait, and I have to believe that God’s time is better than mine.

Secondly, why has nothing already fallen into place?

The saying, “good things come to those who wait,” may be true, but it rarely appears to be truthful to those who are actually waiting.  To be comforted by this conventional wisdom, one must be hopeful about the result of their waiting.

I believe Abram was asking himself a similar question when God had proclaimed that he would be the father of a great nation, but all he had to show for it was an aging barren wife.  This question, if left unchecked, can cause us to do some rash things like how Abram slept with Hagar in order to conceive a son (Ishmael), perhaps to take his future and his family’s future into his own hands.  Maybe he thought this would in some way force God’s hand into sending his blessing through Ishmael’s line.  But God Almighty doesn’t always do what we think is best.  The Lord was planning something else, something that would go far beyond anything Abram could have imagined.  Through barren Sarai came a son, Isaac.  Through Isaac’s line, came Jesus of Nazareth, Savior of the World.

So maybe nothing’s fallen into place because though it was convenient, it wasn’t quite the plan.

And finally, when will thy will be my will?

For me, sometimes the hardest thing to pray is “thy will be done.”  Not because I don’t believe that God’s will is good and perfect, but because it’s not mine.  And I don’t feel like a necessarily terrible person for struggling with this because Jesus didn’t seem to have a particularly easy time praying this in the garden before his arrest.  Even Jesus, Son of God and member of the Holy Trinity had to surrender control to the will of the Father.  How much more so should I!?

To have God transform our will into His will, we must acknowledge that there is an Almighty God who created our world and that there is the Holy Spirit who is alive and active in our world.  We must also trust that God’s will is good for us.  And finally must pray that His will be done in our world and in our lives.  I think the latter of those is the more difficult for me most of the time.  I have to acknowledge that my life is not really “my” life, but rather that I am here on earth as an agent of the Kingdom of God.

We have to train every part of ourselves to surrender to God’s will.  We must pray that God will give us his eyes.  We must pray that God will indwell us with His Spirit.  And we must pray that God turn our thoughts towards him.

So yeah, strange times currently.  Life can get weird when you graduate from college.  I’ve learned that.  I want to leave you with a couple of prayers.  The first from Thomas Merton, and the second from Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.