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.”
“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”
*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,