As a fourth grader (and like all true ‘90s children), I wore overalls often. Hot rollers were my go-to for curling my chin-length locks each morning. My breath smelled like Fruity Pebbles — at least that’s what a classmate told me one day. (I’m over it, really.)
And like all adolescents, I wanted to be accepted, to fit in with the cool crowd.
Among this coveted crowd, there was a girl. She was pretty, and she liked pigs. (Think Wilbur.)
We became friends and pretty soon, I also liked pigs. Pig paraphernalia covered my bedroom. Stuffed animals. Pictures. Trinkets. Pig presents were all I received.
Once people knew I liked pigs, that’s all they thought to give me. I had an entire bookcase stuffed full of plush pigs. True story.
Funny thing: I didn’t truly like pigs. I mean, at least it wasn’t my idea initially. Sure I thought they were cute, but I unknowingly internalized this identity while befriending a popular girl.
How often do we imitate or idolize others without even realizing it? How often do we compare our lives to those around us? (Thanks, social media.)
Lately, the Lord has shown me how I’ve lived with so many subtle insecurities. I’ve strived to perform, get good grades, and be as perfect as possible — beyond criticism.
Over time, my identity became compromised. Unknowingly, I began to define myself based on my abilities, level of fitness, (in)fertility, friendships, career, you name it.
It’s dangerous when we don’t stop to question what false identities we have internalized, what little gods we’ve been chasing.
A couple years ago, Dr. Curt Dodd, pastor of Westside Church, preached a series on strongholds, or obstacles that keep us from knowing God (2 Corinthians 10:5).
Basically, lies we believe. For example, I must perform well to gain approval. Or, I can’t change; this is just how I am.
Dr. Dodd said that any behavior or feeling that goes against God’s word has its roots in a stronghold.
And often, we accept as fact these deadly patterns of thought. In turn, we make peace with the enemy, and we live passively instead of serving actively and engaging spiritually.
Passivity, Dr. Dodd argued, is the sin of our generation.
That’s a bold statement. But I can relate.
In “Nothing to Prove,” Jennie Allen writes, “If I were your enemy, I would make you numb and distract you from God’s story.”
She cites common diversions: social media, Netflix, food and wine — the list could go on.
“I would not tempt you with notably bad things, or you would get suspicious. I would distract you with everyday comforts that slowly feed you a different story and make you forget God,” Allen writes.
Again, I can relate. How about you?
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2 (NLT)
God calls us to a life of freedom. And it starts by renewing our minds through the unchanging truth of God’s holy word. When our thoughts line up with truth, our actions will begin to follow suit.
When our gaze is on God, we can cease comparing ourselves to everyone around us. Instead of blending in with our culture, we can live our lives counter to the current, riding a riptide that will cause others to take notice.
It may be dangerous, but God is adventurous and provides protection.
The book of Galatians is a letter from the apostle Paul to early Christians, reminding them — and you and me — of their free life.
Galatians 6 (from the Message) begins with a call:
Live creatively, friends … Don’t compare yourselves with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.
Paul is fired up. He’s speaking strongly against living by religious rules in an attempt to look good in front of peers and stay in God’s good graces.
Instead, he stresses the simple act of placing trust in Christ. Living by faith. Loving others.
So what’s with this call to live creatively? Well, God’s word calls you an original, a masterpiece, a new creation designed to do good works assigned specifically to you.
You won’t tap into your creative call, your best life, if you’re looking around, imitating others or coveting another person’s assignment.
But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives … things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. Galatians 5:22 (MSG)
God’s gifts become the creative way you express yourself and show his love.
Can you sense your life’s potential? No one can do what you were created to do. Your contribution matters, and it’s desperately needed.
I have been crucified in relation to the world, set free from the stifling atmosphere of pleasing others and fitting into the little patterns that they dictate … It’s not what you and I do … It is what God is doing, and he is creating something totally new, a free life! Galatians 6:14-16 (MSG)
Take some time today to investigate your identity. Is it grounded in God, or are you enslaved to so-called gods, under the rules of paper tigers (Galatians 4:8-11, MSG)?
Whether paper tigers or plush pigs, what we chase after and collect will come to define us and hold us captive.
If we’re not careful, we’ll continue waking up to a life that feels comfortable yet lacks inspiration and smells superficial.
So let’s look to God, whose Spirit helps us grow, gives us freedom, and grants us our true identity. With his help, we can stop living passively and passionless and start living creatively for Christ.
It will take courage. It could be dangerous. But I believe it’s the only way to live.
I want to live this way, and I want to help you do the same. So tell me: What’s one thing you struggle with that keeps you feeling stuck?