Saturday, July 3, 2010

Just Be Yourself

"... Blajeny nodded. 'Yes. You have much to learn from each other. Meanwhile, I will give each of you assignments. Charles Wallace, can you guess what yours is?' 'To learn to adapt.' 'I don't want you to change!' Meg cried. 'Neither do I,' Blajeny replied. 'Charles Wallace's problem is to learn to adapt while remaining wholly himself.'"

--- Madeleine L'Engle, A Wind in the Door

I've been thinking about this exchange ever since I re-read this book several months ago. One and I have had several talks about it and how it can apply to him: he needs to get along better with others, and if he can think about doing that in these terms, it helps (and hurts less at the same time). Today I started realizing that the truth in this passage applies to so much more than that.

Here's what I mean:

Everywhere I look, I see advice for Christian women that at heart asks them to be someone other than who they are. Be a Proverbs 31 woman, be Mary, be Martha, be Ruth - the list goes on and on. Many times the advice goes further than that and becomes "you're not a good Christian women unless you [fill in the blank: are a Proverbs 31 gal, stay home full time, have lots of children, etc]." And so the Mommy Wars come to Christian women, and many of us get wrapped up in watching how other people act, looking for the right person to be more like, and struggling to live up to some standard that doesn't fit us any more than that size 6 bikini in the Everything But Water window display.

And it's all wrong. Because just as Charles Wallace was asked to get along with others without being anyone other than himself, we are called to be ourselves as we live our lives as Christians. The one big qualifier in all that is: we are called to do so in chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility, while putting aside wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. In other words, we are here to sin less, while being who we were born to be and living out the life God has given us. We are not meant to be like someone else, to follow their path, to mimic their actions. We are to follow God and God alone, and that means living as ourselves and using all the strength He has given us to run from sin and towards virtue.

So I am called to sin less while working full time, mothering two wild, public schooled boys, ordering too much take-out, relying heavily on my precious, perfect cleaning lady, and leaving the laundry in the living room for days at a time. You may be called to sin less while staying home full-time with six children, or you may be called to sin less while working part time, sending your three children to private school, and cooking everything from Sandra Lee's "semi-homemade" recipes. Ultimately, though, the details are less important to God than the "sin less" part of the equation. He'll help you work out the details of what daily life looks like (and remember, He gave you your own gifts, intelligence and discernment to help do that by yourself, too), but your day-to-day life doesn't have to look like mine, I don't get to judge you if it doesn't, and vice versa.

Like your mom told you when you were a teenager: just be yourself. It's who God made you, and He did that for a reason. Focus on the real reason we're here: to love and worship Him, to work every day to sin less, and to grow in virtue. On you, that will look different than it does on everyone else. Isn't that refreshing!?

1 comment:

Sara said...

I love that quote! It applies to my first born son as well. I'll have to remember it as he gets older and has more of a sense of being different from others than he does now.

To your point of being yourself while being a Christian, I say you're absolutely spot on! I've taken so many Bible studies and come home from them trying to bite my tongue with my husband (deciding instead to be more passive because no one wants a complaining spouse), talk differently to my kids or just plain act differently than I feel like acting. Now granted, there are times I need to do all of those things, but the reality is, I can't do any of them apart from God. And, when I have acted more like a robot, not expressing opinions about what's bothering me, my husband has told me to just knock it off and go back to being myself. As you said, that's how God made me. I'm not exactly sure why sometimes, but to Him be the glory!