This question rattles around my head like loose coins in the washer: “What are the bits of me that God wants to change, and what if it feels like those bits are the very core of who I am?”
Take my desire for order and routine. It’s been a part of me since I can remember. From the toddler policing the sand-pit; to the adult who can’t sleep till she’s unpacked her case… I cannot imagine a me that does not
NEED want everything in its ‘right’ place.
Sometimes my love of structure is a good thing. It helps me notice when something’s ‘off’ — with the kids or with friends. It makes me more tenacious when righting a wrong. It gives me a tighter focus; so I can persevere when the future is uncertain. It can be good for my family -routines are reassuring for small kids (and handy for batch cooking). Routines are also a great tool for keeping me spiritually disciplined (and up to date with Netflix).
But it’s not all good. Rules can become rulers, and my desire for order can end up dominating me. At the sharp end the results are catastrophic: workaholism; OCD; addition; anorexia. More subtly it can mean the prioritising of tasks over people and a reliance on routines instead of Jesus. It can end up being a low-grade panic attack, managed like a military operation, and waged over decades.
I work on my behaviours and sometimes they change. But my heart’s desires keep bubbling up in different forms. One habit replaces another and I feel like I’m going in circles. Sometimes I feel like I’m fighting myself. What is going on through it all? Is redemption a demolition job or a light renovation? Is God blasting at the foundation? And if so, what if anything, is left? Does Redeemed Me look like me – or is she someone completely different?
The list of questions goes on and on. I don’t know the answers. But here’s a truth that I cling to:
God loves me, therefore he’s redeeming me.
Let’s take these seven words in turn because each one is vital.
Most of these anxious thoughts are thoughts about myself. And I’ll never get peace and perspective if that’s my focus. I need to lift my eyes to Christ. For every one look at myself, I need 10 looks at him!
As I look to him, what do I see? Love! Like a fountain! God overflows with love; and there’s enough to drench me and you and everyone (with more to spare).
I don’t need to solve myself or find myself or prove myself. Here’s what matters: God loves ME in all my particularity. He made me unique and loves me: completely, particularly; already; in all my mess; before I do anything.
Notice the order. God doesn’t clean me up so he can finally embrace me. His love comes first and therefore he sets to work. God’s love is not the end goal, it’s the foundation. But because he already loves us, he sets to work…
Sanctification is God’s work! He involves me, but he is the one who works in me to will and to act according to his good pleasure (Phil. 2:12-13)
Not replacing me. Redeeming me. God doesn’t replace acorns with oak trees or caterpillars with butterflies. He didn’t replace the crucified Jesus with a shiny new risen Christ. No, redemption is God raising up the old and glorifying it. He doesn’t trash the old, he transforms it. My strengths have shadows and my shadows point to strengths and God is shining light on it all.
There’s someone at the end of the process that’s still Me. Sometimes I lose sight of her and deface her through sin. Yet God created her good and will bring her through. Redeemed, but still me.