Lately, I’ve been contemplating our tendency to allow the labels we’ve accepted for ourselves to prescribe our behaviors.
I’ve drawn conclusions about my own attributes just as we probably all have. I’ve taken many personality tests and investigated different psychology textbooks to come to these conclusions, and I’ve basked in finding articles that I think describe me. It’s nice to understand ourselves better and to know we’re not alone, and I’m so glad that we can be comforted by identifying with others.
But I’m also worried. It seems that we too often use our labels to shield comfortable, lukewarm behaviors. We excuse ourselves from being bold and brave because we don’t have a history of acting this way (and it’s so much easier to do what we’ve always done).
My life has so frequently exemplified this. Again and again, I have been confronted with opportunities outside of my comfort zone and thought, “I’m too introverted for this; it can’t be meant for me.” Of course, this is certainly not restricted to introverts—all types of people can be prone to avoiding experiences that would widen the boundaries of what they believe they’re capable of doing. We habitually determine that there is someone better suited, that we don’t have the necessary qualities, that we should stick with what we know.
Acting courageously will look different for each of us, and there is obviously a time and a place for doing what comforts us and rejecting opportunities that aren’t appealing. But I guess this all brings me to my overarching point: As Christians, not even the most precise examination of ourselves and our skills gets the last say because this is not where our identities are rooted.
Our personalities and how we’ve behaved in the past are not equal to who we are. I think I’m at quite an early stage in terms of understanding all that the Bible has to offer, but I know that there is a vast amount to work with regarding our identity in Christ. For one, we are created to do good works. In Ephesians 2:10 (NIV), Paul writes, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” God has designed us and programmed us to do incredible things in his name, and in the moments that I’ve really grasped this, I feel limitless. The problem is that it’s fun to wonder about the good works that God will do through us until it’s time to actually do said works. I’m continuing to learn that most of the actions he calls us to are leaps away from what we think we’re capable of doing (or, at least, doing well), which is kind of a bummer for those of us who have worked hard to build castles inside of our comfort zones and planned on living in them forever.
Fortunately, another aspect of our identity in Christ is that we are victors: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? . . .No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” Romans 9:35-37 [NIV].
I repeat: more than conquerors, as in not just victorious, but overwhelmingly victorious. Jesus already won a decisive victory for us on the cross—we have a savior, and his Spirit in us allows us to be not just successful, but crushingly successful, and if we are his followers, we are not bound by our labels but by his boundless love. In other words, there is no good thing that we are not capable of doing.
Of course, we cannot think about success in the way the world does. It is unlikely that success for Christians will look like achieving safety and contentment. It will probably look more like being a light in the life of a friend who is in the deepest gloom, or having the opportunity to reach out to the refugees, the homeless, and the marginalized. And I swear this will all be more fulfilling than contentment and safety anyway.
We must be continually striving to release who we think we are in order to accept who we actually are. We cannot do and be all that we are capable of if we hide behind who we think we are or how we have behaved in the past.
And, honestly, there is simply no time for us to remain in this place. People are hurting. Our whole world is aching. We need to act. God does not care one iota about our self-appointed labels; he sees only chosen, beloved, and victorious, and this supplants everything else.