It's true for so many of us that we discover who we are in relative isolation with Jesus. It's when all the voices of the world fade away that we can hear Him most clearly guiding us, teaching us, shaping us toward what He had in mind when He knit us together in our mother's womb. And in seasons of such discovery, it's almost easy to lean into it, to start becoming all of those things that Jesus wants to make us.
But we can't stay out of the world forever.
At some point, we have to venture back into our lives. We have to go back out into the world. We have to figure out how to live in the place that Jesus has made for us because one thing is for certain: He hasn't made us to be alone.
God created us for community. He created us to be together. The very first thing God noticed about His creation that didn't quite sit well with Him was that it was not good for man to be alone. The entire course of history later, it is still not good for man to be alone. We need each other.
The challenge is that this is where we tend to start losing ourselves. When we start to come into contact with one another, we start to change who we are. We change who we are to meet expectations that others put on us, or we encounter someone who is something good and wonderful that is a blessing to our lives and we think that in order to be a blessing to others, we ought to be more like them. And then one day, we look in the mirror and see someone we don't recognize. Not only are we not who we have tried to become, but we're no longer who Jesus was trying to make us. It seems we've lost everything.
What we have to do is figure out how to offer ourselves to the world and to others out of a deep place of affirmation that comes from the quiet that we have with Jesus as He shapes us. We have to have our eyes and ears open for the kinds of opportunities He creates for persons just like us, and we have to understand how His design in us is intended to bless the world. Because you know something? It is. You were created to be a blessing, just the way that you are. And it's only when we remember that God wants to bless others through who we actually are that we stop feeling all of this pressure to be anything else at all.
We have to stop giving the world the authority to censure use and turn us away from what we are so sure of in the depths of our souls - that we are beings created in the image of God for His glory and our (collective) blessing, and that means that we all look different.
That's not to say, of course, that we should not have friends who push us and challenge us. The Bible itself tells us that iron sharpens iron, which means that our brothers and sisters should encourage and inspire us to be better human beings. But they ought to be pushing us toward being better versions of ourselves, not copycats of some external standard. We should look around at those that God has given us and want to be better. But again, better versions of ourselves. More of who God has created and called us to be.
And good friends are going to do that for us. Good friends are going to recognize what God is doing in us and hop on board with that, always looking for opportunities to affirm and encourage that. Always recognizing moments when we slip away so that they can call us back. Always recognizing where we're prone to fall so that they can strengthen us.
It's a strange thing - we want to be more like our friends. After all, there's a reason that we love them like we do. But if they are good friends at all, they won't let us do that. They won't let us become more like them; they'll always be pushing us to become more like us. More like that person we are when it's only God's voice that we hear. Good friends will be God's voice in our lives.
It's just something to think about as we go into a new year with all of these big hopes and wild dreams about who we're going to be - and become - in a new season. It's easy to sit at home and think about all of the beautiful things God is making us, but it's something entirely different to try to hold onto that in a world that's trying to speak a different message. So find yourself some friends, some good friends, who will encourage and inspire you. Find yourself some friends who will keep pushing you into your big hopes and wild dreams and hold you accountable to the image of God that is in you.
Otherwise, you may find one day that you look in the mirror and don't recognize yourself.