New Year’s Resolutions have always been a nemesis of mine. Every January 1st, I would compile my list with every intention of keeping them throughout the year. But, lets be honest, I barely kept them through the first month, if that long. They soon became a joke to me, knowing I would not last through the commitment of a year.
This year, I watched several of my friends ask the Lord for a word or phrase that would essentially be their theme for the year. I thought this was pretty neat & began to ask the Lord for a “word” for myself. Through the stillness of one morning, I felt like He was saying, “You”. As you can imagine, I was confused & thrown for a loop since I was looking more for a word that had to do with Him not me. Then one day, it hit me like a ton of bricks, He wasn’t saying “You” in the context of self-centeredness, but instead that I needed to practice being me, the one whom He created me to be. Most of my life I thought I had been trying to imitate Christ, but as I examined further I realized that I was really just trying to imitate the people around me.
When I started Kindergarten, I came home one day & in a rather demanding voice, told my mother that I wanted some Gloria Vanderbilt jeans & I would not go to school until I had some. She looked at me with some confusion & assured me that I would indeed go to to school the next day even though I would still be sporting my Lee jeans that she had bought me before school. You see, my mom would take my sister & I on a school shopping trip every year before school started. We would drive to the big town of Monroeville & hit up the Vanity Fair. This place was super sized & had everything you wanted, clothes wise, in one place. They had 3 kinds of jeans: Lee, Levi’s & Gloria Vanderbilt. We never had a choice at to buy. With 3 growing kiddos, it was always the Lee jeans for my family. Now for those of you that don’t know what Gloria Vanderbilt jeans are, they are like the modern day Miss Me jeans. My cousin, who was just 4 months younger than me had some of these jeans. We also just so happen to be in the same class at school, so I wanted to be just like her. Imitating…started young.
2 Peter 3:3-4 | “Do not let your adorning be external-the braiding of hair & the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear- but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle & quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”
My imitation of others only grew from there. In second grade, I moved schools. After several months, I began to fit in with my other classmates. I became fast friends with 2 girls. We stayed friends all throughout elementary & high school. But my friends looked different from me. They were both petite, blonde hair, green eyes & olive skin. I on the other hand, was tall, red hair, brown eyes & pale skin. I saw them as being what all the magazines described as beautiful. I envied what they looked like, which led to constant dissatisfaction with the way I looked.
Samuel 16:7 | “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’”
One of the things that I started noticing in high school was the family life that others had. My dad worked very hard when I was growing up, so much that it caused him to miss out on many things. We seldom took family vacations & he missed most of my games that I played. I wanted what other people had. I wanted the stories & support that their dads were giving them. I wanted my life to look like theirs. I was so caught up with “what I didn’t have” that I totally overlooked what I did have. So again: I wanted my life to imitate the lives of others.
1 Timothy 4:4 | “For everything created by God is good, & nothing is to be rejected if it is received in thanksgiving.”
At the age of 16, I made the decision to follow Christ. For the remainder of my high school days, I battled with this decision. It was hard, really hard. After 2 years at a junior college, I transferred to Auburn. I once again battled with the Lord on whether I would attend a church while in college. I mean, I was on my own so nobody was forcing me to go. After a couple of months at Auburn, I began attending Lakeview. I began to see what the Christian life truly looked like & I wanted what so many other people had. I wanted to have a voice like their voice to glorify the Lord; I wanted their evangelistic spirit so I could tell as many people about the Lord as I could; I wanted their quiet times and the hours upon hours that they spent with the Lord. I modeled my life after theirs. If someone told me about a bible study, I went out & bought it, thinking that would make my relationship with the Lord like theirs. I wanted to pray like others & use the “big” words. I wanted my relationship to be conformed to theirs. You can imagine how discouraging & disappointing this was to me when it didn’t happen. I felt defeated…A LOT! I even went through a period where I felt like I could have my old lifestyle & new lifestyle with the Lord at the same time.
Romans 12:2 | “Do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable & perfect.
When Ryan & I got married, we had many godly examples to look up to. We imitated many of them because their marriages seemed perfect & we were striving for perfection in that first year. We tried to be like others: taking on their likes to be our likes, modeling what they did as a couple. This was all fine & dandy until we didn’t even know who we were as a couple because we constantly wanted what other people had. This lead to horrible fights & discontentment throughout our first few years of marriage. We were so busy modeling our marriage after others that we lost focus on what our marriage was suppose to look like.
Philippians 1:27 | “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come & see you or am absent, I may hear of you, that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.”
Parenthood. I mean who doesn’t want to be someone else when you bring home that baby? Parenthood makes you discover who you truly are & what you are really made of! I asked many questions before Gracie was born. I wanted to make sure that I had everything perfect when she came home from the hospital. Then reality hit. I was sleep deprived & everything was far from perfect. As the years went on & as the Lord gave us more children, the model family began to change in my eyes. I wanted the kids that didn’t disrespect their parents, who obeyed the first time. I had friends who modeled this appearance on the outside. They looked like they had it all together & yet, I was struggling. I was easily angered, frustrated and had way too many expectations on my kids. I yearned for my kids to be like others. I wanted my kids to model what I thought were the perfect kids.
Psalm 145:14 | “One generation shall commend your works to another, & shall declare your mighty acts.”
Deuteronomy 6:6-7 | “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, & shall talk of them when you sit in your house, & when you walk by the way, & when you lie down, & when you rise.”
I knew when I married Ryan that he was called to the ministry. Not long after marriage, he started seminary. The Lord placed many godly examples in my life, some being minister”s wives. I desired to be like them. They were my heroes & to some extent my idols. If they had Fridays off with their husbands, I wanted Fridays off with my husband. If they visited with their husbands, I wanted to go visiting with my husband. If they attended WMU, then I felt like I needed to attend WMU. If they would have given up their house to a homeless family, I would have insisted that I give up my house. Why? Not because I had been convicted to do this, but because someone who I was imitating had done it.
Romans 12:6-7 | “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our service; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts , in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.”
I have always had a problem with trying to be like someone else. It had become my life. Imitating others was easy & it was keeping me from becoming the person that the Lord wanted me to be. You see, Christ formed me in my mother’s womb. He had made me & created me to be different, to be like Him. His Word tells me clearly in Ephesians to “be imitators of God, as beloved children.” To be honest, I was afraid of becoming that unique person that Christ wanted me to be. It was easier to just be someone else rather than follow God’s plan for my life. If I could just be like her & have their family & their marriage & look like that person, then I would be good. They had it all together. But Christ clearly tells us to not look like the world & to be who He created us to be. Not Sarah, who had the “best” jeans, NOT Amanda or Wendy, who had the “perfect” looks, NOT Lori who had the happy vacations & parents who were always there, NOT Adrianne who seemed like when she prayed the Lord answered, NOT Cliff & Toma whose marriage looked like they had it all together, NOT Mike & Melissa whose kids respected them & obeyed them & NOT Kem who everybody in the congregation seemed to love.
I was made to be Amanda Bethea Ralls Johnson. Nobody can be me. It is plain & simple. I had to quit looking at what other people were doing & trying to mold my gifts to their gifts. It is not only exhausting but wasteful. So, when you are caught up in trying to figure out how to model someone else or desiring to be who they are, first stop & evaluate who you are in Christ. You were formed by God in your mother’s womb, created in the same manner as everybody else, yet called to be like no one else who Jesus wants you to be.
So friends, be who YOU are IN Christ.