Random Blog Clay Feet: November 01, 2008
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Saturday, November 01, 2008

How to Act Like Myself

During the sermon this morning I got to thinking about the purpose of Bible stories and how they are designed to help us today. I came to the conclusion that possible one of the most important reasons we are given so many stories, both of people in and after the Bible was written, is to teach us how to act like ourselves. And the most important time to know how to act like ourselves is when we are afraid.

One of the signs of a more matured brain is the ability to have a coherent identity. That means that a person has come to the place in their growth that they can act the same way no matter whether they are experiencing a strong emotion or if they have no strong emotion. In other words, they will not act any differently based on the emotion they are experiencing. If they happen to be angry they will not act any differently than if they were not angry. If they are sad they can act the same as when they are not. If they are faced with overwhelming fear they will have learned to act as they would if they felt no fear at all.

And this is what I believe is the purpose of why God has given us so many real life examples of how people learned to trust Him and how to act like themselves when they were faced with intense emotions, especially with fear. I can immediately think of a number of stories where people in the Bible were faced with overwhelming odds that threatened their lives and even their nation and chose to turn to God to find out how to act like themselves.

But what does it really mean to act like ourselves?

Acting like myself means first of all realizing that most likely my perceptions about my identity along with what people around me think about me are very likely not the real truth about who I really am deep inside. Every person has been invested by God with a unique and special identity that is reflective in part of God's personality and that has infinite potential to bring glory to God's reputation as they learn to use their identity to reflect that part of God to the watching universe. Learning to act like myself requires that I discover and experiment with my true identity as it is embedded in my heart that I may have never recognized before. It often requires a lot of time and interaction with God to begin to see our true identity, but it is the purpose of the plan of salvation at work in our lives to bring us back into alignment with God so that we can reflect His character and personality collectively.

Most of the time people around us will tend to try to reinforce false assumptions about our identity. They may not realize they are doing that to us and we usually don't realize when we do it to others. But we do it all the time, especially with children. Look at the expectations that we have about children and the way we talk to them much of the time. If a child has a pattern of misbehaving we tend to assume that they will misbehave and they usually come through for us. People tend to be drawn into fulfilling the labels that we paint them with and then we see those results later produced in their behavior and think we are justified in assigning those labels in the first place. The real truth is that many of the problems that are produced in children and each other are due to the expectations that we have about who they are and what they are becoming. It is largely the adults that form the outcomes of the personalities and characters of children.

But how do we find out who we really are and what it looks like to act like ourselves? I believe that this is where it is so important to obey the invitation of God to seek His face. The face is where the most communication takes place both verbally and more importantly non-verbally. It is the face that communicates emotions, feelings and expectations and those communications may sometimes be very different than the words we are using. But God's face is always consistent with His words and God's heart is always toward us. Because we are designed to reflect His face it is extremely important that we learn how to perceive His face more effectively so that we can begin to see and feel more clearly the source of our real identity.

That brings up another issue that has plagued me most of my life. These analogies can be very frustrating at times – like this business of seeking God's face. How can I seek the face of God when I physically cannot see Him, much less gaze on His face? If I can't go to heaven or get Him to literally come down and materialize for me to see His face physically, then what does He mean when He tells me to seek His face? (see Romans 10:6-8)

I am still learning a great deal about the answer to this question and I will not presume to have a satisfactory answer as of yet. What I do know is that over the past few years God has been awakening inside of me another part of my faculties that was so underdeveloped that I was incapable of fulfilling this need to seek His face. Jesus declared that God is a spirit and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. Because I was so unaware of how to relate to or understand my own spirit I could not know how to seek God's face. For me, religion had always been taught as an external, behavior-oriented set of rules and doctrines so many of these illustrations only frustrated me instead of enhancing my spiritual growth.

But God knew that and has been very gracious in providing all sorts of training and education over the years to help me make sense of His instructions and to awaken my heart to begin functioning again. For much of my life I feel that my heart has been close to dead, or at least so suppressed that it was almost useless. But God has been implementing plans to awaken my heart and rehabilitate it and still has much more work to do in this area. But I am starting to get more of a sense of what it means to seek the face of God over the past few years. The more I get in touch with my own spirit and the more I learn to live in honesty from my heart instead of artificially trying to look good on the outside, the more my spirit faculties become capable of relaying to me communications from the face of God.

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14 NRSV)

I ask God on a regular basis to show me His face. I do not have to know how or when He will do it, but if He has asked me to seek His face then it is His responsibility to answer my prayers to show me His face whatever that means. And the more I pray that prayer the more I sense somehow that it is happening more and more.

The more clearly I begin to perceive God's face and the real truth about His character, the closer I come to discovering my own true identity and thus am able to more clearly learn how to act like myself. You see, my true identity is first of all as a child of God, an honored and trusted son even though everyone around me including myself may feel very differently. I have to take God's word for who I really am, and the more I come to believe from my heart the truth about my identity the more I find myself acting and feeling in congruence with my true identity. And that is what it really means to act like myself.

Fear is Satan's greatest weapon against us to keep us from knowing how to act like ourselves. That is why in story after story we see God's people faced with great fear-producing circumstances to frighten them into acting like someone other that their true identity. Our response to fear and fearful circumstances determines the outcome in each situation and whether or not we bring honor to God by acting like our real selves or acting like the false notions about ourselves both from within and from others. The real battle we are engaged in is not against other people but against the lies about our true identity and about God's identity. When we believe lies about God it can only follow that we will also believe lies about ourself. The more clearly we understand and embrace the real truth about God the easier it becomes to act like ourselves under any circumstances and in any emotions. And that is the essence of maturity.

What many people call perfection is really maturity from heaven's viewpoint. In fact, most of the words in the Bible translated perfect really mean mature in the original language. When we begin to view life from the standpoint of the need to mature instead of the legalistic viewpoint of perfectionism, we are making a huge step into learning how to really act like ourselves without being controlled and manipulated by fear.

Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. (Hebrews 2:14-15)