It is easy to picture my InterVarsity community as my personal gang. Colin—one of our chapter leader and hip-hop director of our school’s radio station—can throw down a mean rhyme on a moment’s notice, so I think that alone makes it a pretty good analogy for us. Our little gang has its own lingo, inside jokes, and knowledge that new Christians don’t have.
I should know. When I first joined our InterVarsity chapter, I understood about 80 percent of what the other students were saying…and I come from a Christian background. There were phrases thrown about that made me a little nervous, threw me off a bit.
So, I’m not surprised when I hear new Christians are concerned about losing their individuality in terms of how they talk, look, and act once they start following Jesus.
Jaime Castañer, InterVarsity Campus Staff at Ramapo College, said part of this misconception about losing our individuality comes from the language we use inside our Christian communities.
Phrases like being “born again” and “giving everything up” can seem intimidating, especially to someone new to faith.
“When we hear ‘giving everything up,’ we get this idea of losing all we have. Sort of like being in this desert, abandoned, where there is nothing around us,” Jaime said. “I rather see coming to Christ as a reorientation of our lives, rather than giving everything up. A refocusing of our life path.”
As someone who once heard this lingo and was a bit freaked out, I want to share what I’ve since found in my journey with Christ.
First off, I have not lost my sense of self. Sure, I have changed. A bit more patience, a bit more care in how I treat others. But I am still myself. I still love Diet Coke. I still nap way too much. And I’m still as determined and stubborn as I was before I started to follow Christ.
I think Jaime put it best when he said, “When you strive to be the best of who God made you to be, you discover your individuality.”
I can attest to that. After spending time in Christian community, I’ve learned my weaknesses and my strengths. I’ve learned what I need to work on, and with God’s help, I’m working to become who he wants me to be. At the same time, community has emphasized my strengths. God has given me a passion for writing, so I write blog posts like these and am part of a Christian-journalists group. I like storytelling, so I share other people’s testimonies and my own with my non-Christian friends.
God is the one who made us. He is the one who gifted us with strengths and weaknesses so we can improve every single day as human beings.
Psalm 139:14-16 explains it in a way I can’t:
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.
Each of us was fearfully and wonderfully made. Why would God waste all that effort only for us to become mindless zombies? God loves our individuality because he is the one who gave it to us.
by Emily Brown