Have you changed lately? Are you a different person than you were a year ago? Three? Five?
If you ran into a long lost friend, or fell out of touch with someone for a few months - would they notice that you are different?
I would hope so.
Some of us fear change simply because of the uncertain. Some of us fear change in others because it leaves our relationship undefined. And we all fear change because it reminds us that we are not in control.
I've been accused of changing a lot in my life. This past year included. Guilty as charged.
5 years ago, I would have called myself a sinner.*
2 years ago, my views on sex would not have let me be close friends with the woman I am today.
A year ago, I was scrambling to understand who I was, for the second time.**
And even in the last 6 months, I have become radically different.
Yes. I have changed.
Do you know what I love about Jesus? This. "Jesus looked at him and said, 'You are Simon, the son of John. You will be called Peter.' " (John 1:42)
In one fell swoop, Jesus looks at a man, acknowledges his father, his family, his past - and says, "I know who you are. I KNOW. And I will call you otherwise."
Not, "you have some problems, let's talk about them." Not, "follow me, and eventually you'll be further away from your past." Not, "tell me about yourself." And not, "let's get rid of the bad and keep what looks good."
Jesus says, "I know you. I know everything. I know where you come from, and who you are. None of it matters to me. THIS is who you were created to be, and THIS is what you will be called in the new family that I am creating."
Done, and done.
When you decide to follow Jesus, you are faced with a very inconvenient truth. That you are brand new, and that your reality will never again be the same.
That everything you thought you knew must now be re-filtered through God's perception, not yours.
It is a loaded truth. It is a truth that implies your sins, your faults, your past are dead and gone. A truth that says this world matters no longer, and that our eyes are "to be focused not on the seen but on the unseen." It is a truth that implies the old is DEAD and the new is NOW. It is a truth that forces you over and over again to decide which is more important to you: the kingdom you've lived in your entire life, or the kingdom of heaven.
It is an active truth. It requires fighting. It requires ripping open the scarred flesh so that the surgeon can remove the debris.
Becoming a new creation in Christ is not a fancy way of saying that the sins in your pretty little heart are now invisible to God because you said The Prayer. Becoming a new creation in Christ means that Jesus knew who you were, and has said No. This stops here. You are mine, this is your name, and this is how you fit perfectly into a family that you can't even see yet.
Being given a new name in Christ does not mean that when you get to heaven you will be assigned a bedroom with Mildred Winnie Anne on the plaque above your vanity. (Although this could be true, God does have a sense of humor.) It means that every morning you wake up you must re-commit to accepting the name that Jesus has given you, and refuse the depression, the pain, the accusations, the never-enough, the selfishness, the materialism, the loneliness, the addiction, the sadness, and the failure that every other broken person has sold to you.
I have a hard time with this.
Just as Paul had a thorn in his flesh, I have mine, and you have yours. Or we have a few of them.
Many days, I want to be the Lauren who can't quite hear God clearly. I want to be the Lauren that's depressed because her biological family isn't coming to her wedding on Saturday. I want to be the girl that's really shy that grew up without any friends and struggles to relate to women. I want to be the girl that makes everyone around her happy and at peace. I want to be the Lauren who goes back to re-read Systematic Theology every 5 years so that I can have a tiny chance of winning over my dad with my flawless hermeneutics.
But that is not the name that Jesus has given me.
Jesus has told me that just as a sheep knows the voice of his shepherd, I DO know the voice of my Father. (John 10:2) I have been given family all across the world who actively loves & encourages me daily, because "whoever does My will is my mother, and brother, and sisters." (Matt 12:50) I have been called Bold and Victorious One, because Jesus has promised to carry out to completion the good work that was begun in me. (Phil 1:6) In my mission to preach the scandalous life that Jesus offers, I bear the same sword that He does. (Matthew 10:34) Jesus has called me Simple, because "you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children." (Matt 11:25)
Jesus was not a watered-down sort of man. Never did he come to make you better, he came to make you brand new. Never did he show up with painkillers, he came to heal.
You are not somewhere between dead and alive. You are alive.
"He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to Him, all are alive." (Luke 20:38)
Change does not come easily. Life does not come easily.
The people in your life that identify only with your old self will be confused, unsettled, offended or no longer know how to relate to you. But the people who have a glimpse of the self Jesus created you to be will cheer you on, be excited with you, and encourage you in your race to change and be changed.
And that last group of people? THAT is family. The family that will be ever growing - as you continue to seek them out and as God continues to bring them to you exactly when you need them. And when they need you.
You will change.
It's okay to change. It's okay to become more like Jesus and less like you.
It's okay to stand up for your change. Losing things is okay.
I will celebrate your change with you.
I will celebrate the new name Jesus has given you.
How have you changed? Tell me.
Our new names are glorious things.
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* Recovering legalist, folks. Infinitely envious of what other women possessed but terrified to seek it out, and utterly convinced I would never emanate or live out freedom. Jesus gave it to me.
**Finally addressing a lifelong identity crisis & inferiority complex with being a woman. Coming to terms with Jesus creating me as a woman for a purpose & finally understanding that I have great value (not less) because of my gender.