Being You-er Than You

2 + 2 equals  4… but so does 3 + 1…

Just because someone may do things a little bit differently than you, doesn’t mean they are doing it wrong.  This has taken me years to understand, and I think I’m just beginning to scratch the surface of what this truth actually means.

I used to want to fit in for such a long time.  Before I became a Christian, I would buy the right clothes from the right stores, wear the right hairstyles, and pierce the right body parts.  I’d listen to all the top hits on Y100.7, speak the American slang, and dive deep into the popular teen magazines.  I did whatever it took to blend in with the cool kids and be “one of them.”

Funny thing is… when I became a Christian, that didn’t stop.  I still was desperate to fit in.  I exchanged my “American slang” for “Christianese,” and I swapped out my Brittany Spears CD’s for Bethel Worship Music.  I still tried to wear the right clothes – you know, nothing to “skimpy” but also nothing to “amish,” and I even tried to wear a purity ring.  (Which lasted a whole five seconds, by the way.)  My first few years of going to a new church and trying to figure out how to be a “good normal Christian” was incredibly intimidating.  I still didn’t feel like I fit in even after I received my salvation card—not to mention, I was super unhappy because I wasn’t free to be myself.

Sometimes we swap one seemingly harmless costume for another without even realizing it.  I had swapped my punk rocker skater chick look for the perfectly clean, prim and proper church girl look.  Neither of those costumes actually represented who I was, and neither of those costumes actually brought glory to God.  They were fake, false projections of who I thought the world wanted me to be.  They were easy to hide behind and they kept me safe.  All the while, I was compromising the girl that God accepted long ago and the daughter He took great pride in.

My identity crisis stemmed from fear.  The fear of being unloved and rejected by the world around me.  I didn’t believe that God’s love and stamp of approval over my life were good enough or powerful enough to overcome my insecurities.  But they were…

But they are.

So now, I’m learning to embrace Sam.  And not just Sam, but Samantha Lynn Stokesberry.  I say that because I used to hate my name – and my family and friends knew it well.  (My mom only called me Samantha Lynn when I was in trouble. If I heard that name in the house, I knew it meant one thing: run for your life.)  I thought my name was way too long and way too girly.  But when I was born, my parents declared this name over me with great pride and joy, and the Lord gave me this name when He breathed life into me.  My name has a bunch of different meanings.  In Hebrew it means, “God Heard or Told by God.”  In Aramaic it means, “Listener or One Who Listens.”  In Greek it means, “Flower.”  My name is a representation of who I am, it’s a promise that has been spoken over my life, and it’s where my identity first takes root.

When I embrace all of me, I better represent Christ.  Now, that may sound a bit strange because Christ embodied perfection and I definitely do not, but its true.  God made every single one of us uniquely, and He loves us uniquely, so when I express myself and love myself – I glorify God.  His uniqueness and beauty gets reflected through who I am.  His creative skill, His personality, and His workmanship are all revealed in and through me (and you).  His nature is seen and heard in my voice, my actions, my behavior, and my thoughts.  When I try to hide that or change that, then a part of God’s nature, the nature that He chooses to display through me, gets lost.  He needs me to be me, so that His love and essence can be seen.  And He needs you to be you, because no one is you.  In the words of Dr. Seuss, “Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!”  Get it?  Good.

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I’ll describe this wonderful phenomenon one simple word:  freedom.  When we embrace who we are (flaws and all), we are able to walk and live in the complete freedom of Christ.  I am free to cry, free to laugh, free to wear my hair up in a bun on the top of my head, and free to walk out into the world without any make up on.  I am free to play sport, free to dance, free to ride a motorcycle, and free to sing along to every single Disney movie soundtrack that I own.  I am free to celebrate my strengths, free to admit my failings, and free to stumble and try again – while simultaneously being free of any guilt or shame.  Because as it is pointed out so eloquently in John 8:36 (MSG version), “…if the Son sets you free, you are free through and through.”

The condemnation we feel when we act like ourselves doesn’t come from God.  Those feelings come from the enemy, who is afraid of God.  He knows that the Spirit of Christ lives in us, and when we walk in that authority and freedom—it scares the bejeebers out of him.  Those feelings of condemnation and judgement can also come from some of the people around us who just don’t quite get this message of freedom yet.  And that’s okay, because they are learning too.  Our job is to shake off the hate and keep loving.  Now quick disclaimer, do any of these points give us an excuse to continue to live in patterns of sin, say for example, if we have bad habits or enjoy doing things contrary to God’s word because it’s who we are?  Nope.  That’s a negative ghost rider, but nice try…

So moral of this blog post…

By loving and embracing ourselves (with our shortcomings and all), we will be better equipped to love and embrace our neighbor – just like Christ did.  The bible talks about how we are all different parts of one body, with different strengths, weaknesses, and roles.  We were each created with a specific purpose and plan in mind—a purpose and plan that only you can fulfill.  So instead of trying to fit ourselves into tiny cookie-cutter like molds, and instead of trying to be more like that girl or that guy who appears to have it all together, let’s step out of our comfort zones and into our own skins.  And while you are being you, don’t hate on your brother or sister for being them.  Remember, just because someone is a little bit different from you, doesn’t mean that they are wrong.

Unless they don’t like Nutella.  Then we’d need to have a conversation…

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