Every question I ask of God lately seems to keep coming back to identity, with identity being based in relationship with God. Sometimes it’s frustrating, but I think the point is slowly sinking it.
Have you ever had an ingrown hair or nail and had to dig it out? (Or helped someone else dig one out?)
Digging these sorts of things out can seem really gross and discomforting, but when you know it is for health and well-being you can set yourself to doing it. It’s often painful and can leave you bleeding, but digging it out now stops future pain and damage to your body.
Sometimes God digging out sin in our lives can feel like that. And I don’t mean sin like one single act of disobedience, I mean like the ingrained (ingrown?) ways of thinking, the attitudes we never realised were harmful, the habits that might have been healthy ten years ago but are now holding us back, becoming life-draining not life-giving, not spurring us on towards Christ-likeness, towards closer relationship with God.
The voice in our head that we keep listening to that says we’re not good enough, or that people don’t like us, or we’ll never understand this.
Because those voices are wrong, and even more than that, those voices don’t even matter. Only God’s voice matters and God is busy saying to us, over and over, you are enough, I love you (and if I accept you then why do those people’s opinions matter?), and here, use my strength and my wisdom to understand or keep going anyway.
You are worthy because God says you are worthy and God’s voice is the one which matters, that trumps all others.
God wants what is good for us, but that doesn’t mean that getting there won’t be painful, God will just work that pain for good (see Romans 8:28).
Rooting out these patterns of behaviour and thought, not just cutting them off at the surface (to regrow later or maybe get infected) is harder, but it does more to bring us into Christ-likeness, it transforms us by the renewing of our minds (see Romans 12:2), to be standing in the place where we should be standing – based firmly on God.
And how do we know that identity? We get to know God.
Jesus Christ is a reflection of God in human form, we are called, literally, little-Christs, imitators of Christ, we are called to become Christ-like, and the only way we can know which direction to move in order to do this is by getting to know God, and that requires building an ever-deepening relationship, spending time with God, hearing what other people have experienced and say about God (both in today’s speech and books and through the Bible), listening to what God has to say, doing things together (aka obedience, but more on that another time).
By learning about the Father and about Jesus, we learn how to relate to God as God’s child, loved wholly and completely.
Our sin, our bad habits of thought and action, get in the way of receiving this love, of diving deeper in relationship with God.
For me, focusing on Father’s voice about who I am, not the voices of the world, or even my own voice, has been so freeing. It has allowed me to shift and transform my attitudes towards myself that have been in existence nearly my entire life, and it has transformed the ways I view other things too. These bodies we are and live in? They’re a gift. This world we exist in, often barely even noticing as we rush from place to place? Created by God’s hands, a wonder. That bully from school? A beloved child of God, just like me.
When God’s ways of seeing things are prioritised, whole perspectives can shift, like putting on a new pair of glasses, and that helps me to do what God has asked of me:
- to walk by faith and not by sight (see 2 Corinthians 5:7)
- to think on whatever is true, right, pure, good, lovely (see Philippians 4:8)
- to praise God in all things (for examples see Psalm 150:1, 1 Peter 4:16)
- to see God’s hand at work for good in all things (see Romans 12:2)
- to trust, lean on, and rely on God always and in all things (for examples see Isaiah 50:10, Psalm 20:7, 2 Corinthians 1:9, 1 John 4:16)
- to root out sin in my life (see James 1:21, 1 John 3:2-4, 1 Thessalonians 4:7, Romans 6:6)
- to become Christ-like, to be transformed (for example see 1 John 3:2-4, Ephesians 4:15)
God’s ways are not my ways, and God’s thoughts are not my thoughts (see Isaiah 55:8), but God gives the Holy Spirit (see 1 John 2:27, 1 Corinthians 6:9, Romans 5:5) and wisdom (see James 1:5) and whatever is lacking in order to do what God asks of us (see Matthew 6:33, 2 Corinthians 9:8, Psalm 23:1). God doesn’t leave us to do it all in our own strength, God works these things in us (see Hebrews 12:2, Philippians 2:13), we just need to trust, trust the process of unravelling, trust the process of being knitted back together, and trust the hands which hold us through it all.