I recently celebrated eleven years of marriage to a wonderful man. As I look back over my life and marriage, it's amazing how much God has taught me since those days of honeymoon love.
Fifteen years ago I sat on a noisy, crowded bleacher, watching my first rodeo in the afternoon sun. I felt like a foreigner. Truth be told, I wouldn't have been there if not for a handsome cowboy entered in one of the categories. I vividly remember one thing: the way this particular cowboy's hair—dark and thick and a little bit long—glimmered in the sun with each buck of his horse.
Though our salvation is accomplished by the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf, we still need to work every day to become who we already are.
Meanwhile, I asked a lot of silly questions. I'm sure I sounded ignorant to everyone seated within earshot. Since marrying this man, though, I've learned a little bit about this lifestyle. I've grown in ways that I could not have anticipated fifteen years ago.
Life is fluid, not static. We are all constantly changing, for better or for worse. We accept roles and responsibilities throughout our lifetime, many of which we are completely unprepared for. We all have an opportunity to grow into these various roles that God has given us. I would even say that we, as Christians, have a responsibility before God to become who we already are.
Let me explain . . .
Marriage is more than a piece of paper.
It is a living relationship marked by intimacy, mutual care, forgiveness, growth, and love. The day I married my husband, I became his wife before God and by law. That didn't mean I knew how to be married. I was used to being independent. I had shaped my world without reference to another. Now I needed to learn how to grow in union with my husband. I needed to learn how to be what I was, namely, married.
A mother is more than a womb that conceives a child.
A mother loves, nurtures, and engages with her children daily. When I brought my firstborn home, I had no idea what I was doing. I was already a mother (A person doesn't forget that painful rite of passage!), but it somehow felt wrong that they would entrust this fragile pink bundle to a bumbling new mom like me. I needed to learn how to be who I was, namely, a mother.
It should come as no surprise then that a Christian is more than a person saved.
A Christian is awakened to the beauty of Christ. We are called to holiness, love, and communion with God. It took me a while to figure out that Christians need to work at being Christian. Though our salvation is accomplished by the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf, we still need to work every day to become who we already are. This is the paradox of the Christian life.
Ephesians 4:22-24 says,
"Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and . . . be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and . . . put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness."
To "put on the new self" is another way of saying "be who you are." Christ has made the Christian new (2 Cor. 5:17), yet old habits die hard. Thankfully, God does not leave us to our own devices in this struggle against sin. The Spirit empowers and guarantees our destiny.
Putting on our "new self" is not instant or easy. It is incremental, daily, and intentional. It's the little things that don't amount to much in and of themselves but that make up the fabric of a Christ-like life. We can express who we are in a variety of ways because each redeemed person is wonderfully unique. Examples of these little moments of expression may include:
- spending regular, focused time in communion with God
- squelching anger when dirty shoes mess up a freshly mopped floor
- laying personal needs aside for the sake of another
- forgiving someone who has wronged you
- enjoying the beauty of God reflected in creation and relationships
- trusting God rather than despairing when life feels hard
- doing dishes as service to the Lord
- listening to helpful podcasts or music while accomplishing the mundane
- talking about spiritual things with friends and loved ones
- celebrating God's goodness
I'm not the same person I was fifteen years ago, and yet I am. Saved by God's grace, I am slowly but surely growing in that grace—and there's still a long way to go. Identifying with Christ shapes the hours of my day and defines who I am becoming. I'm not content to stay the same. It is who I already am, and yet, who I aspire to be.
When all the little moments of your life are sewn together, what will it look like? Is there evidence of a new life that is becoming more like Christ?