“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
2 Corinthians 3:18
Growing up in the church, I can not recount the number of times I was on the receiving end of the sermon topic, “Who are your role models?”. If I remember anything from my formative years participating in pre-teen based church activities, I remember that recurring message. The goal was to get us kids to slow down and pay attention, to recognize who we were following and why.
I remember pointedly identifying the qualities I admired most among my peers, girls who were kind, quiet and mature, but a shared history with girls my age wouldn’t permit me to identify them as role models. However, there were a couple of older girls, beyond my league of social affiliation, who I did identify as role models. There was one at school and one at church who made a profound impression on me; profound enough to be my answer to the question, “Who are your role models?”.
These two girls were socially established, beautiful, confident, well-dressed, classy, smart, successful and popular. They were prominent fixtures on the map of planet ‘Under-18’, the well-defined, narrow world in which I lived. Within those borders, I was an under-developed, insecure, shy speck of a girl. I was the girl who was dubbed, “Dinky Donut” in the 3rd grade, “Small Fry” in the 6th grade, and carried around piggyback by the boys in her class as they affectionately asked, “How is it down there in the land of the little people?”. At the close of the 7th grade the school weighed and measured us before the summer started. I measured in at 4 feet 8 inches tall and weighed 75 pounds. All of the comments and pet names were well warranted.
Fortunately, I got saved the summer after the 8th grade and was reborn into a new identity in Christ. Immediately upon getting saved, the Holy Spirit initiates a demolition/reconstruction process. Being only 13 years old, I didn’t have a deep bed of sins for Him to dismantle. Instead, His first order of business was to change my personality. To believe in the Lord Jesus meant accepting who He said I was which required disputing my prior self-assessment of insignificance. In junior high, I had been invisible among the normal-sized students, but not in God’s eyes, nor in the eyes of those older girls.
I wanted to make God proud so I concentrated long and hard on the examples of those role models. The distinct difference about those two girls was that they recognized me. Not for being cute, or abnormally tiny, or someone’s little sister, but as a person worthy of individual recognition and encouragement despite my miniature stature and lack of social status. They invested in my sense of self and were consistently kind. Their attention, as brief as it was, was sincere. I soaked it up and internalized what it was about them that I admired so much.
With my new found faith in God came anticipation of the person I could become, a vessel for His purposes. I entered my first day of high school, a wimpy, shrimpy freshman with the mission to mimic the two girls I looked up to. I remember internally coaching myself to approach and greet shy students. I remember reminding myself to hold doors for people. I remember seeking out something in common with each person I met. At first these efforts were forced, but it didn’t take long for them to become natural. It shocked me how easy it was to transform into a new personality, into a new person. With obedience, I evolved under the Holy Spirit’s power.
Many years have passed since the summer of 1989 (geez, this is beginning to sound like a Bryan Adams song). I am grateful that I learned how to change from who I was into a new creature early in life. As I have matured, God has demolished and reconstructed other areas of my life: my priorities, time management, strongholds, sins and desires. He’s always working on something. Today I find it humbling that once again the order of business is a change of my personality. It’s been 22 years since we tackled this subject. I have different motivations to subdue this time, motivations like ambition, selfish gain, the guarding of my established presence on planet ‘Over-30’. This time, I must dethrone myself in order to select new role models. This time I want role models who turn the other cheek, who do nothing through strife or vainglory but in lowliness of mind esteem others greater than themselves, who stand firm in faithfulness to God and holiness in life even in the face of death.
I anticipate great things. I know what God can do. I am familiar with this process. I am to perform the behaviors of the personality I desire to become. God will enable my success and bring about the permanent transformation in me.
Let’s get started.
Could it be time for a change in your personality too?