We can't represent what we don't embody
Not long ago, the Lord revealed to me that I had been putting him in a box and consequently put myself in one too... I had a conversation with a non-Christian and I asked her why Christianity turns her off so much.
She simply said, “I feel like if I become Christian I’d have to go around with ashes on my forehead, worried in prayer and condemning people left and right.”
At first I felt offended but then I opted for laughter instead and took it as a lesson.
We seldom get the gift of seeing ourselves from the outside. I didn’t realize how often I carried a solemn look, snapped at the waitress, honked at cars cutting me off, and avoided eye contact with the homeless man on the corner.
My mom used to always tell us when we were growing up, “You represent the family when you go out. Represent us well!” The same goes for us Christians. We represent our Christian family when we are out and about. We need to be true and do our faith justice.
But we can’t represent what we don’t embody...
We forget who we are and claim false identities
We so easily forget our identity. We forget who we are and what truly leads us to unconditional joy. Satan, negative thoughts, and negative emotions do a good job at that. For too many years I avoided many of the saints because to me they made it seem like if you choose a path of holiness you’re going to have a life full of suffering and trials and maybe even a martyrdom if you’re lucky. It scared me. I was looking at the negative.
What I didn’t realize until too recently was that precisely in the midst of all these ridiculous life circumstances, for the most part they maintained unaffected joy and their love and affection for others was unwavering... I want that.
Certain days I feel it so strongly. The more I let go of the negative, the more free I feel. It feels like a super power. Things that usually would cut me deep or make me feel worthless or vulnerable no longer affect me so greatly.
But so many days I waste opportunities to practice letting go and embracing my identity as “God within” but I know the truth and I’m so much better than I was yesterday.
It’s like Paul said, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” Paul was not being flowery or speaking in platitudes. He meant this literally. Christ actually is within. God, who is Infinite Love, Infinite Value, Infinite Goodness, Beauty, Truth is within me. He makes up my identity which means that my identity is infinite value, truth, beauty, and goodness.
I need to stop making claims on my identity when it’s not my place.
I’m not a depressed person. I’m not anxious. I’m not broken.
I may experience these things but that’s not who I am.
Who am I?
I am Christ in me. I need to embrace what our first Christians knew so well, what Paul knew when he said that line.
The spirit in me is God’s spirit. It is abundantly flowing, spontaneous and unchanging, impactful and gentle. I am not separate from God and his Kingdom. He and His Kingdom are here and now. He wasn’t just referring to a physical place, He was referring to me and You. He and His Kingdom reside in me. This is my true identity.
We need to go back to our roots.
When my husband and I started praying the Liturgy of the Hours a while back, my heart underwent this transformation as I read through the Psalms and prayers written by some of our prominent first Christians. I realized that the first Christians were so full of joy! In the midst of persecution, they were experiencing freedom. They transcended the negativity. They didn’t buy into it. They were liberated beings and this reality spread like wildfire.
As the original Christians show- our identity, as established by Jesus Christ, is to be a liberated people, full of love and joy, in constant praise of our Father that only wants good things for us.
Let's go back to our roots and reclaim our identity as people of praise.
We hear proclaimed in Mass, “It is our duty and our salvation always and everywhere to give Him praise.” Why do we forget that praising God is as natural to us as blooming is to a flower. It is who we are. It constitutes our identity and there is nothing more fulfilling.
How do I let society, negative thoughts and emotions, negative patterns steal away my joy that is our call as Christians? In what way do I give more power to the negative? Do I actually live a life of joyful praise? Who does God say that I am and who do I say that I am?
Heavenly Father, you don’t just reside in me. Your very Spirit makes up my spirit. Help me to come to know who I really am. Help me shed these identities I’ve imposed on myself that have held me back. You live in me. I am whoever you wish to be in the world. I am truth, beauty and goodness. I am whole and complete. Lord I pray this wholeness would penetrate the rest of my being to allow for healing of body and soul so that I can more fully live out a life of praise and unaffected joy. I pray that in seeing me, others would be inspired to run to you.