Okay, before you comment with something hateful, let me explain.
I was a Junior in high school when I became a Christian. I had maybe been to church 4 or 5 times and I thought the whole idea of Jesus was a joke for sad people that couldn't deal with their own problems.
I was also an addict. I was consistently stealing pills from those closest to me that actually needed them. I loved the feeling of being numb from everything around me.
If there was a morality scale that ranked from 1 to 10 I was somewhere around a negative 3. I had a twisted view of people, myself, and everything I thought life represented. I did horrible things that still make me question if God could love me in spite of those decisions.
When I walked to the front of a stage at a youth camp and asked Jesus into my life, it was honestly a last resort. I knew I needed help and I wasn't sure if God was real or if Jesus really cared about me. I was drowning in drugs and my future was not looking bright. So, I told God on that day that I would give him a year of my life.
I got up, walked back to my seat, and honestly, I felt the same. However, I was committed. I meant what I said and I went all in. I started reading the Bible, attending church, played on the worship band, decided to be a Pastor, quit the drugs (not exactly immediately, but I did it eventually), and tried to be everything I thought God wanted me to be.
It took a lot of time, but I eventually succeeded. By the time I was in college, I had become a "new" me. No one would believe me when I shared my past. I loved when mouthes would drop and people would say things like "Praise the Lord, you are a true miracle. That doesn't seem like you at all." It made me feel special. I felt like I was winning at being a Christian. The more spiritual I became, the more accolades I would receive.
This was a new me. I was better than the crappy version everyone saw back in my teens. Zach 2.0 if you will.
Fast-forward about thirteen years. I had become a Campus Pastor at two different churches. I had seen over 1000 people receive Christ, I had led hundreds of volunteers, executed dozens of outreach events, My wife and I tithed, served, and cared for the Church.
Until I didn't. One day I wasn't those things anymore.
Then everything came crashing down. Wait.
It was more like everything came crashing down, while I was simultaneously sinking into the earth. Hmmm, That's not enough.
It was like everything came crashing down, while I was sinking into the earth, and I was hogtied with barbed wire. Okay, that feels right.
It was miserable. Everything I believed about me, God, the Church was destroyed.
Over the course of the next few months and countless hours of counseling, I feel like I learned something really important that I misunderstood when I became a Christian.
I thought being a Christian was all about changing. It was about putting to death who you were and burying that person so deep no one would ever find them. That's not right. Here's why.
The Bible says a lot of good things about you. You are wonderfully made. You are God's masterpiece. You are an heir of Christ. You were made in the image of God. There's a lot more, but I think you get the idea.
When we believe that God wants to change who we are, we carry the idea that God made a mistake and now he's trying to fix it. Like a recalled toy that the manufacturer never meant to release. We are fundamentally an error.
I don't know about you, but God isn't making a mass recall over humanity.
Christianity isn't about changing. It's about becoming.
Before we meet Jesus, we have every unique piece of God's image inside of us, but it's out of focus. It's messy like a puzzle that hasn't been finished. You have the gifts, the purpose, and every good thing God has blessed you with. However, this thing called sin is knocking it out of whack.
Jesus comes to bring clarity to who you are.
The Gospel isn't about Jesus changing you. The Gospel is about you becoming who you were always meant to be.
Look at the story of the prodigal son. When the son runs away and wastes his life, and his father's inheritance, the Father doesn't make a new son to replace the old one. Instead, the son gets clarity, comes home, and recognizes where he went wrong. The Father responds with,
"This son of mine was dead but is alive again; he was lost and is found."
The Gospel is about finding the real you. It's about taking your past, your personality, your weird quirks, and finding clarity on why God made you so unique and special. It's about bringing to life the goodness resting inside of you!
If you made it this far into the blog, then I want to ask you something.
Have you been trying to change who you are? Are you hiding the real you?
I want you to know I understand. It's an easy trap to fall into. Sometimes good-intentioned people encourage you to fit into a mold that you were never meant to fit in. Being different doesn't make you defective. It makes you special.
I believe a lot of people give up on the church because of this. They spend their time trying to be like someone else. They try to kill their identity when that's the thing God is wanting to bring to life.
Stop changing. Start becoming.
Find the real you.
After all, that's what God really wants.