Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A You shaped me

Have you ever noticed how married people or close friends or even co-workers begin to look alike or talk alike? It seems we are often influenced by those around us and begin to slowly morph into them. Maybe it’s the young woman who realizes she is turning into her mother by the way she reacts to something, or the married couple who end up dressing similar day after day without pre-planning, or the group of teenage girls (or guys) who all use the same phrases and jargon in their daily text, phone, and IM conversations. It seems that when you are in the presence of another person for a good length of time you begin to take on their habits, mannerisms, likes and dislikes, or even their appearance.

Take a look back at your life and see how you were shaped by the influences around you. Oh I rocked the leggings, t-shirt dresses, mall bangs, and slap bracelets in elementary school because all my friends did the same thing. The many summers spent working at summer kamp brought to me a whole new vocabulary scoped by the people I spent day and night working with: “Spring Break 99”, “Fid-teen”, “Man Cave”; words that to any other person wouldn’t make sense but to myself and the others like me they spoke volumes. Then there’s the moment when I yelled after my roommate as she left for the evening “Be safe” as I heard my mother’s voice channeled through my mouth.

We are undoubtedly a product, if not of our surroundings, then of those who surround us.

About a month ago I wrote a post titled “A me shaped You”. If you haven’t read it I suggest you go back and spend a few minutes with it because I’m going to pick up on the thought line that lead me to that post. Go, I’ll still be here when you get back.

So if we are a product of who surrounds us, than through our faith should we not begin to look a bit like God? That’s a tricky question, because in my Christian life I haven’t seen a whole lot of physical changes develop to make me more god-like. But then again, we are already in His image, so maybe the changes aren’t all that physical. Also I’m not sure how to pick up on the vernacular of God, nor are we in general two-way spoken conversation so I can’t really begin to speak like him, so there goes the vocal image.

What does that leave us with? Our hearts? Our actions? Our minds?

If I take a good look at myself in the mirror it isn’t the physical or even the spoken that I see change (oh these might change on account of the other changes, but they are the root of becoming more like Him). Instead I see changes occurring deep inside, in the core of who I am. They aren’t dramatic changes either, and often times they go fully unnoticed by myself or others until they cause some outward action to change.

And since these changes occur oftentimes without notice, I’m pretty sure that I’m not even an active participant. Though not active, I would say I’m willing. That might be the key to becoming more like Him, to having a me shaped You. The willingness to let someone in, to make changes that you might not notice, that you might not appreciate, but to let the change occur, to let the One change you to be more like Him.

Another big part of changing is that it often comes in the midst of some type of pain. This isn’t to say that pain is the catalyst for all changes, but it sure is a popular one, at least in my own life. And I realize that the pain is often because I’m so defiant to those changes. I might think or say that I want to be a You shaped me, but when it comes down to it, I’m not willing to give up what I hold on to that is in the way of that change. And so a collision of sorts occurs, with my defiant selfishness set against the will of one who loves me so much He died for me. Guess who wins that fight? And that’s where the pain enters, at the point of my fighting to hold on to what I must relinquish to accept what He has to offer. But at the end of that fight, after the collision, there is change, there is always change, because I leave that place different from what I started. I lay down something that was of me to pick up something that is of Him.

But back to those areas that we begin to look more like Him: our hearts, our minds, our actions. Each area is tied to the other and yet each area give evidence of our shape changing, of us becoming less like ourselves and more like Him.

I want to chew on each of these areas, how they’ve changed in my own life, how my shape has changed to be more like Him. And so this is only the beginning of this post. I’m still thinking and reflecting. I would love to hear your thoughts on this, your ideas, or maybe your own experiences.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

To me, it seems like there is an ebb and flow of changes... as we battle our will. I think until we let go... the change, for me at least, is temporary. As long as I release my will, then I change for the better... if I cling tightly to it... then I change for the worse. Depending on where I am at that moment determines whether I reflect His will and am more like Him. The only thing good in me is Him... and if I am refusing to follow His will then I tend to be more like me then more like Him. It's an on going process that I feel like I fail more often than I succeed. But thankfully, He loves me inspite of this. As a result, I draw closer to Him and I become more like Him in the end.

12/19/2006 2:40 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Ask any missionary and they'll tell you how hard it is NOT to change to be just like their target culture when they move there. I've been living in Melbourne and my friend Raylene just asked my yesterday if I thought my accent had changed. It got me thinking about it, and I think it maybe has a little, but mostly in my inflections and my vocabulary and use of phrases. I was talking with my parents the other day over the webcam and used the word "reckon" and they gave me this blank stare before saying "are you turning into a southerner? what's next, 'ya'll'?" (I'm from New York)

Being a missionary is about learning the language of the culture you're living in, and the only way to do that is to immerse yourself in it; spend time with the people, read what they read, watch what they watch, grow to understand WHY they are the way they are so you can communicate with them on their terms.

Not unlike Jesus - what was the incarnation other than a missionary God coming to us to speak our language, learn our culture, show us His love in our terms? He's already learned our language, now to learn his, we have to reciprocate. Spend time with Him, do what he does, be with who He's with ... love who he loves, serve who he serves. As we do that, we'll start to look more like Him.

I think that's what discipleship is supposed to be - learning about God, learning WHY he is who he is, and as we grow to understand the why, we grow to understand Him and start to imitate His movement in our world. And by imitating His movement, we BECOME His movement.

12/19/2006 4:53 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Just found an interesting article by Al Hirsch on this very subject.

12/19/2006 5:18 PM  
Blogger Lorie said...

I can SO identify with your paragraph on pain and change and defiance. We're going through a study at Sojourn called "How People Change"---it's a book and a workbook (we're doing the workbook). Great stuff. The authors point out what seems to be God's pattern for sanctification (based on what we see in the Bible)---and it involves "heat" (our cirumstances, whether they be blessings or pain). The process usually initially produces thorns, because of our natural, instinctive sinful reactions, but eventually (through Christ's work for and in us) can and does produce fruit. It's such an encouraging and insightful study and has been great for me as I think through these very things.

12/20/2006 9:07 AM  
Blogger Bobby said...

I'm just glad you're making this post into a series so I can continue reading your thoughts on the matter.

12/21/2006 10:26 AM  

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