Great Changes Begin Great Stories

Think about your favorite novel, movie, or TV show. It probably begins with the main characters going about their ordinary lives. Bilbo Baggins lives peacefully in his hobbit hole (The Hobbit). Elizabeth Bennet is socializing with her sisters and putting up with a mother eager to marry her off (Pride and Prejudice). Luke Skywalker is moisture farming on Tatooine (Star Wars). A pastor is sailing with his family to a colony in the South Pacific (The Swiss Family Robinson).

Then Gandalf arrives with a party of dwarves. Mr. Bingley moves to Netherfield. Droids arrive carrying secret plans that must be delivered to the Rebellion. The ship crashes on an uncharted island. Something changes, acting as an inciting incident to push the main character out of their normal life and into the events of the story.

We’re currently living in a time of great change. People are talking about what the “new normal” will look like and speculating about how much things will change now that there’s Covid-19 in the world. There have been many other times of great change throughout history — pandemics, the industrial revolution, natural disasters, colonization by European powers, terrorist attacks, the falls of empires, the birth of Jesus Christ. Some are terrible, some depend on your point of view, and a very few are spectacularly good.

We have very little control over how the world changes. But we do have some control over if and how we change in response to those changes. In many ways, we get to decide whether the effects of this pandemic will be an inciting incident for personal growth, a speed bump as we continue on much the same as before, or something that derails our path.

Great Changes Begin Great Stories | LikeAnAnchor.com
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We would not have had a story if Bilbo stayed home, Elizabeth refused to speak with Darcy a second time, Luke didn’t follow R2-D2 into the desert, or the Swiss family had been rescued after only a week on the island. Now, I’m not saying you should ignore social distancing guidelines and go running off on a grand adventure. For us today I’m talking more about an internal adventure and a commitment to positive change.

Some of the greatest journeys we can go on are those of self-discovery, and they’re often prompted by change. The biggest moments that stand-out in my mind as times that sparked personal growth were starting college, beginning a dating relationship with a man I’d been friends with for years, and then the breakup which ended that relationship. Maybe this pandemic will be another one for me, and for many other people.

Whether you’re stuck at home and have some extra time on your hands or not, the changes in the world around us can serve as a reminder to look inwards and evaluate ourselves. We might ask questions like, “What impact am I having on the people around me for good or ill?” or “How can I become a healthier individual mentally, emotionally, and physically?” or “What do I want the next part of my story to look like?”

We can’t control when quarantine restrictions lift, who gets sick, or most other things associate with this pandemic. But we can control how we respond to the changes that are happening in our lives and the world around us. Let’s commit to making sure the great changes we’re going through now spark great next chapters in the stories of our own lives.


If you’re looking for some ideas for where to start working on personal growth, I’ve finally found an Enneagram book that I like. It’s called The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile (please note this is an affiliate link, which means if you click and make a purchase I’ll receive a small commission at no additional cost to you).

I haven’t quite finished it yet, but even just reading the introduction and chapter on my enneatype has given me some additional clarity on a couple issues I’ve been struggling with for a while. You might want to check this book out if you’ve been curious about the Enneagram or want some ideas for personal growth. I borrowed it from a digital library, so that might be an option for those who (like me) prefer to try out a book before buying it.

 

Featured image credit: js j via Pixabay

Don’t Settle for Less Than the Best You

I recently reread one of my favorite books, Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. And I found that he spends quite a bit of time talking about the theme of my blog — finding our true selves in the people God created us to be. I didn’t purposefully have Lewis in mind when I wrote that tagline, but I’d read Mere Christianity before and I’m sure that’s partly where the idea came from.

Yesterday, I was struggling to come up with an idea for today’s post. It’s hard to go wrong talking about C.S. Lewis, so I thought I’d share some of what he has to say about finding the truest versions of ourselves. Of course, given the sort of man that he was, it is impossible for him to talk about such a topic without pointing readers to God.

“The more we get what we now call ‘ourselves’ out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become. There is so much of Him that millions and millions of ‘little Christs,’ all different, will still be too few to express Him fully. He made them all. He invented—as an author invents characters in a novel—all the different men that you and I were intended to be. In that sense our real selves are all waiting for us in Him. It is no good trying to ‘be myself’ without Him. The more I resist Him and try to live on my own, the more I become dominated by my own heredity and upbringing and surroundings and natural desires. … I am not, in my natural state, nearly so much of a person as I like to believe: most of what I call ‘me’ can be very easily explained. It is when I turn to Christ, when I give myself up to His Personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own.” — Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis

It’s an interesting concept. That no matter how hard we might try on our own to be an individual, authentic self we will actually be moving away from our real personalities if we are not moving toward God. As the inventor of personality, God is the one best qualified to tell us what we are meant to be. It’s the potter and clay analogy — that God is the potter who decides what sort of vessel He is making us to be (Is. 29:15-16; Jer. 18:1-6).

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A choice to be different

Perhaps this sounds like it goes against free will. It does not. The very fact that we can reject God and try to be something other than what He intends attests to Him giving us a choice. But choosing anything other than Him just means we’re crippling our self-expression and rejecting the greatest path to personal growth. Finding ourselves shouldn’t be our focus, though. In fact, getting too caught-up in the self is a good way to lose track of our truest personality. Read more

Everyone Has Layers, Including Introverts and Extroverts

I recently read an article that made the claim extroverts will never understand that an introverted personality has multiple layers. I’m not going to link to this article because it’s not my intention to attack the writer, but I mention it to highlight a common misconception among introverts — that our personalities are more complex than extroverts.

The truth is, all people have layers. And we all — both introverts and extroverts — have a tendency to assume that how we see people act initially is how they act all the time. We meet someone who seems chatty and friendly, we assume they’re generally a talkative and friendly person. We meet someone who’s quiet and reserved, we assume they’re generally a private, quiet person.

But just as introverts don’t want people to assume they’re nothing more than a quiet person who doesn’t speak up much in crowds, extroverts don’t want people to assume there’s nothing more to them than the life-of-the-party social butterfly. We’re all complex, layered people with nuances to our personalities.

The Masks We Wear

Introverts often talk about how we wear different “masks” in different situations. We have our social mask that we put on when hanging out with a group or meeting new people. In this mask, we can be so engaging and talkative that sometimes people might even mistake us for extroverts. And we might have other masks, too — the professional one we put on for work, the polite one we wear interacting with retail workers, the “don’t talk to me” one we wear when in a public place and we don’t want disturbed.

We don’t usually think of the version of ourselves we show the world (especially new acquaintances) as a complete picture of who we really are. Introverts tend to be private people who keep a large part of their personalities hidden. We take time to open up to people and let them see behind any of our masks.

The thing is, extroverts do this too. Even the most social extrovert has layers to their personality that they don’t share with everyone. Extroverts also wear masks to fit in with different social situations and groups, just like introverts do. Depending on their personality type and individual preferences, some extroverts might be even more private than introverts regarding their personal lives.

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The Christian Community and Our Godly Identity

In last week’s post, I talked about the new identities God gives us when we enter a relationship with Him. For those of us with a Western cultural mindset, “identity” is typically connected with “individualism” — who you are that makes you unique from everyone else. But the Bible was written by people with an Eastern cultural mindset, where identity is a more collective concept that involves how you fit in to a group or family.

When we find our identity in God, it is a collective as well as an individual thing. The Christian life isn’t meant to be an isolated one. We’re part of a community, a family. If we neglect to recognize that, then we’re missing out on a huge part of our identity as believers. And if we purposefully cut ourselves off from the community, we reject an incredible blessing.

Being in Christ Is Being in Community

I recently read a fascinating book called Participating In Christ by Michael J. Gorman. One of the key points he makes is that “to be in Christ is to be in community” (chapter 10). We miss this in English far more easily than we could if we read it in Greek.

“This life in Christ is lived not in isolation but only in community. (We must keep in mind that most of the words for ‘you’ in Paul’s letters are plural pronouns, and most often the imperatives are given in the second- [or third-] person plural form.) — (Gorman, Participating In Christ, Chapter 1)

“You (plural) are the temple of the living God” (2 Cor. 6:16). “By grace you (plural) are saved” (Eph. 2:5). We often read these verses, and many others like them, as a deeply individual thing but they’re addressed to a community. Our individual relationships with God are vital. But so is our communal relationship with God and His people. Read more

It’s Amazing What Happens When God Gives You A New Identity

One of the main themes of this blog is my belief that we find our true identity when we connect with God and learn who He created us to be. In order to do that, sometimes we have to let go of the old ways we used to define ourselves.

People in the Bible had to do this, too. Moses went from prince of Egypt to shepherd in hiding to leader. Saul went from insignificant Benjamite to king of Israel (1 Sam. 9:16, 21). Paul went from a Jewish religious leader persecuting the church to preaching Jesus (Gal. 1:22-24). They all had to change big parts of their identities to become who God intended them to be.

We all have ways we define ourselves. I’m a writer, a sister, a teacher, a dancer, a daughter, an introvert, a person who struggles with anxiety. When we enter relationship with God, we’re called to use our roles and identities for Him. Sometimes, though, we need to leave parts of our identities behind that don’t line-up with His goodness and/or His plan. And we also get to add new aspects to our identities that make each of us a more whole, complete person.

Becoming A “New Man”

Our walk with God is one of transformation. We don’t stay the way we were before salvation. We learn to “walk worthy of the calling with which you were called” as we “grow up in all things into him who is the head, Christ” (Eph. 4:1, 15, WEB). We can’t live in the same way as those who don’t know God once we’ve entered a covenant relationship with the Lord (Eph. 4:16-20).

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Where Do You Find Your Self-Value?

Before we can become the best versions of ourselves and have a right view of ourselves, we have to recognize our true value. The world will tell you that your relationship with yourself is the most important relationship you have, and that increasing your self-esteem will correct any problems you have with feeling like you’re not enough in some way. But following that advice isn’t deeply satisfying because I think deep down we all realize that we can’t assign value to ourselves.

That begs the question, “Who can assign value to you?” Other people, society, or impersonal metrics aren’t good measures either. The only satisfactory answer is God. Only the Creator can assign value to His creation. He knows what He created you for and who He created you to be, and therefore only He can declare how valuable you truly are.

Testing Where To Look For Value

We’ve been talking about Ecclesiastes here on this blog for a couple week now (click here to read “Crash Course in Ecclesiastes” and here for “Letting Death Give Us Perspective On Life“). One of the things that Solomon does in this book is present an in-depth analysis of all the different places that we can look for value.

Solomon experiments with finding value in his own wisdom, in pleasure, in wealth, in fine works, in great power, and in the legacy you leave for future generations. But he describes it all as “vanity” (hebel, H1892) — a transitory, unsatisfactory thing. As we modern people read through Ecclesiastes, we often label Solomon as depressed (probably accurate) and having low self-esteem. But Solomon himself doesn’t describe the problem as not esteeming himself enough. He knows the self isn’t a good place to look for value, and he wants something or someone else to give life meaning and tell him his purpose.

As Solomon works though his existential crisis, he concludes that meaning can only be found in God. God is the one who sets everything in motion and the only one with an accurate perspective on His plan (Ecc. 3:1-15). He’s in heaven and we’re on earth, so we need to be wary of jumping to conclusions about things we know nothing about (Ecc. 5:1-7). In the end, everything boils down to our duty to fear God and keep His commandments (Ecc. 12:13-14). That’s the key to understanding who we are and where our value lies. Read more