Be who you are.
It sounds simple, doesn’t it? But there’s a catch…because sometimes we have a hard time knowing what that means. How many people have had to “find themselves” at one point or another because they weren’t really sure they knew who they were? A lot of us. Because we all have layers of expectations poured on by parents, friends, teachers, coaches, advertisers….and sometimes it’s hard to know our own minds. So at some point, we try to figure out who we are underneath it all. It’s a natural part of growing up. But I’m not sure it’s something we actually get “figured out”. Because as many Enneagrams or Myers Briggs tests as I take or books I read….and as helpful as they are, in the end, I’m still just a work in progress. But here’s the thing. Even when I don’t understand myself completely…I trust God does. God, who intricately wove me together in the depths of the earth, even before I was knit together in my mother’s womb…knows me. Completely. Better than I know myself. And God doesn’t have an endpoint for my journey of self discovery….but actually loves the muddle I am in the midst of it.
Today we claim the promise that who we are is known by God. And honestly, there is nothing more important than being known. Really known. Not just the image I present…what I look like. Not just my reputation…what people say about me. But that innermost part of me…the dreams and fears…the things I hide, that I’m ashamed of…and my precious and treasured memories…my loves and my hates…my deepest hurts and my deepest joys. To be known…exactly as I am…what a thing that is. But then…if someone knows me like that…and loves me just as I am. That is everything.
This is what we trust is most true about God. God knows us. Completely. Nothing is hidden, nothing is secret. Every moment of our life is intimately known. Honestly, I love that this psalm has that angry piece at the end. Because..that is also a part of who we are, isn’t it? This world…and the evil and ugliness that happens….the hurt we have experienced…or seen others experience. And we’ve seen a lot of it lately. Sometimes, we simply hate with a perfect hatred. We can’t help it. But even that is known to God…and understood by God. And all we can do is pray that we don’t hurt others as well. That the hurt in us doesn’t hurt others.
Who we are is known by God…but it also is beloved by God. You are exactly what God intended when God knit you together …inside and out… your bodies, your innermost being….in all your uniqueness. And you are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are enough. Even if you aren’t sure who you are exactly…
Most of us have a hard time believing that. We are sure that we are supposed to be different than we are. We are supposed to be better somehow. Do more. Accomplish more. Feel differently than we feel. You know…basically…we should be more like her. Or him. But that is not what God intended. God intended for you to be exactly who you are. And you…you make a difference in this world…AS YOU ARE. Who you are makes God’s intentions for creation complete. Who you are is needed…. your sensitivities, your strengths, your insight, your way of seeing the world. Like Uncle Sam say…”we need you.” The world needs you. The creation needs you. The human family needs you. The church needs you. Not pretend you…not happy you or put together you or perfect you…but the actual you.
We are all unique…we have different strengths and weaknesses and gifts and callings…but we are all part of the body of Christ. We are all needed in church. People who love to chat are needed and people who like to listen are needed. Observers are needed and doers are needed. Silly people are needed and practical people are needed and timid people are needed and strong people are needed You don’t have to be what you’re not to be a child of God. To be a part of God’s family. Survivors are needed and addicts are needed and struggling people are needed…because how else will other addicts and survivors and strugglers know that God loves us all? You are needed as you are. There is no dress code, no “smile” requirement. You don’t have to hug people if you don’t like hugs. You do you. Whatever that might look like for you today. Wherever you are on your journey. Because God can use you to love this world…to love others…in a way that no one else exactly can. You are the good news, as you are…trusting that God loves you…in the world.
That being said, one of the things I feel strongly about in churches is that we aren’t here to cram people into programs…rather, we are here to encourage people and empower people to do the work and ministry they feel gifted and called to do…and trust that that is the work our church community is called to do in this time and place. And that work may not always be happening inside these church doors. Our church is doing ministry in hospitals and schools, in businesses and among neighbors and in all the places you all live and work and play and volunteer.
One of the traps churches fall into is thinking that they should be doing the things they “used” to do. They remember activities of the past and think ..”well, that should be happening now”. The reality is every program and activity at a church is for a season…for the people who are there at that time, sharing their gifts, bringing their interests during that time of their life. And those programs don’t have to keep going on….in fact, they shouldn’t continue when there aren’t people who really want to do them. It’s okay for things to end….because new things can only arise when people aren’t forced to make things happen that they don’t really care about anymore. When people have space to be who they are….we are a more beautiful and healthy church. That’s when people can do what they love…what they have an inkling to do.
Here’s the thing….the only thing that needs to happen in this space is for God’s love to be shared…and Jesus’ meal to be offered and the waters of grace to be poured out freely. We don’t NEED anything else. We don’t NEED a coffee hour….but I do know a lot of people for whom that time is precious — getting to know one another, building friendships, not feeling so alone in the world. So it is important…and people who don’t mind bringing goodies and serving folks signed up this summer to make it happen…and that’s awesome. We don’t NEED to have a beautiful yard here at church…but it’s nice….and there are people who don’t mind hopping on the mower or pulling weeds and they make it happen. That’s awesome. We don’t NEED a Sunday School….but Terry loves teaching and Willson and Phyllis have a ball…so that’s awesome. We don’t NEEd to do Second Harvest….but we have a load of volunteers who like knowing they are making a difference for 300 families on a hot August day…so that’s awesome. We don’t NEED a choir or special music….but we have people who love to sing and they touch our hearts in ways that nothing else can…so that’s awesome!. We don’t’ NEED to make quilts…but we have a group of folks who like coming in on Tuesday morning and chatting and knowing they are making something that will be given to folks all around the world on the worst days of their life…to refugees, to homeless folks, to people who have lost everything to fires and floods ….and that’s awesome. We don’t NEED to have Bible studies….but we have a group of folks who love coming in and talking about the Bible together…asking questions and learning from one another and growing in their faith…so we do it and that’s awesome. We don’t NEED to make prayer shawls…but we have people who love to play with yarn…and love the idea that they are covering someone with prayers and with God’s love when they are going through difficult times….and that’s awesome.
All those ministries started because someone wanted to do them….and said…”You know…I could do that. I wonder if someone else would like to do it with me? “ They started from people being who they were. And that’s awesome.
What the church needs…what the world needs….is for you to be simply who you are…at this time…in this place…while you’re still a work in progress….and for you to trust that that is enough. No…it is more than enough. It is fearful and wonderful and holy. You are known and you are loved and you are, now and forever, a child of God. Be who you are. Amen.