We live in a world that is constantly telling us, “You’re perfect just the way you are!” and “Don’t change in any way!” Turn on the radio, boot up Netflix, or scroll social media and it won’t be long before some variation of that message is blasted at you in song, script, or a quote written in some fancy font. And although it is well-meaning, I really think that it is ultimately misguided. Because believe me, I am so glad that I changed! This was recently brought to mind when I attended a friend’s baby shower.
I was a painfully, debilitatingly shy teenager. Perhaps due to undiagnosed anxiety or just deep-seated insecurity, I’m not sure. But I found it incredibly hard to make friends and always felt as though the people who were kind to me were doing so out of pity.
Fast forward 15 years. I am attending nursing school to pursue my dream of becoming a Registered Nurse. I meet new people every day and am relied upon to communicate well with vulnerable people as well as people in authority. I was widowed in my twenties and fought tooth and nail to survive my trauma and build a life for myself and my daughter. Along with my wonderful second husband, I raise two beautiful girls and work hard every day at being their Mama. I have certainly not “arrived” as the person I want to be, but I am a far cry from the adolescent whose heart would race anytime she had to speak to someone outside her immediate circle.
So back to the baby shower. It was for a friend whom I’ve known since those teenage years, and she invited many of the other people from that time. I somehow, inexplicably and frustratingly, reverted back to that scared teen around them. I am intimidated by these people whom I have not seen in a decade and who hold no true power over me. And I am reminded, in full sweaty, cringey detail, how happy I am to have transformed into someone new. At least most of the time. But I definitely needed help getting there.
I was listening to a recent sermon by Brent Ingersoll of King’s Church in which he said, “God loves you just the way you are. And way too much to let you stay that way.” And that’s just it, isn’t it? You don’t need to change to be loved, valuable, or accepted. You are a child of God and are put here on this earth uniquely you… and uniquely equipped to do what he has planned for you. Psalm 139 says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. – Psalm 139:13-14 (NIV)
You can be both wonderful the way you are and strive toward becoming a you that is closer to the image of Jesus. You can look back on the woman you once were and love her, but also know that she never could have accomplished what you can do today. I have lived it. I have prayed for God to make me into the person who could handle life’s greatest challenges. I am still very much on that journey but He has answered my prayers and helped me onto the path. Even when He has to carry me for a while, when I turn my back on Him, and when I do not trust in His goodness.
We should never feel we need to change to be worthy of God’s love. We are beautifully and wonderfully made as we are, sipping our coffee or scrolling through our phones. But it is because He loves us just the way we are that He wants to change us. He wants us to put off our old selves and become more like Jesus. Like the seed sown in the springtime we are filled with potential to bloom and grow and fill the world with more beauty than we ever thought possible.
I feel compassion for the insecure woman I was. I thank God for how far I’ve come. Though I don’t know the person I will become, I want her to be more like Jesus. I can’t wait to meet her.
…put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. – Ephesians 4:22-24 (NIV)