Are You Who You Want to Be?

“This is your life – are you who you want to be?”1

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Of course, I’d heard that lyric hundreds of times.  The Switchfoot song from which it comes, “This Is Your Life”, is still played fairly regularly on the radio, even though it is nearly twelve years old.  But that day, for some reason, as I drove home for lunch, that phrase seemed to grab at me again.  Are you who you want to be?  Am I who I want to be?  Is anybody who they want to be?

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I’m sure that if you would ask the average Joe or Josephine on the street that question, he or she might give you a vague, worried look, and then a polite answer – something along the lines of “Um, well, I try, but I’ve still got a ways to go.”  (Actually, the average Joe or Josephine might tell you to buzz off and mind your own business.  Manners and etiquette aren’t what they used to be.  But that’s another blog post for another day.)  But if you could really talk to Joe or Jo, if you could really break through all the defenses and walls he or she puts up to protect themselves from the judgmental eyes and tongues of the world, I’m sure you’d get a more potent answer:  No.  I’m not who I want to be – and that worries me.  How do I become who I want to be?  How do I find time to become who I want to be?  How do I find the tools and resources to become who I want to be?  Those are powerful, compelling questions; we don’t often stop to think about questions like that – usually because we don’t want to think about questions like that.  They’re uncomfortable.  They’re meddlesome.  They lay us bare . . . which, if I were to guess, is exactly why the presumably nice guys from Switchfoot recorded this song.  It’s a pot-stirring, troubling-in-a-good-way kind of song.

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As a pastor, I tend to think, well, pastorally, about things like this.  (Since the members of Switchfoot are Christians, I don’t think they’d mind too much.)  Specifically, I think about how we believers in Jesus Christ might answer this question – because, well, this is our lives.  These are the lives we have been given; they are gifts from God.  Are we the kind of believers we want to be?  Are we the people God created us to be?  Are we who God called us to be?  And if not – why not?  And what are we going to do about it?

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Yes, yes, I know – the preacher has moved to meddling again.  The preacher has dared not only to step on toes, but to tap dance on them.  And yet, it is a merciful thing, I believe, to ask these meddlesome questions – albeit, in the words of Sheldon Vanauken, perhaps a “severe mercy”.2  For in essence, we are dealing with a question of vision here:  what is the goal of the Christian life for us?  Who do we want to be?  And, more importantly, who does God want us to be?  And are we doing what is necessary to achieve His will for us?  After all, any runner will tell you that if you don’t have your eye on the finish line, there’s no way you are going to make it to the winners’ circle.  Similarly, if a baseball player up to bat doesn’t keep his eye on the ball, he or she will most certainly strike out.  The problem with many Christians, however, is that we haven’t even bothered to figure out what the goal is, let alone how to achieve it.  Many Christians, in other words, do not have a vision – and to quote the Proverbs, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 28:19, KJV).

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So, what should our vision be?  I’ll let the words of an old Celtic hymn answer that one:

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Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
naught be all else to me, save that thou art –
thou my best thought, by day or by night;
waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.
3

 

The vision is God Himself, and the goal is to be like Him – to become like the One we worship.  He is to be the Lord of our hearts.  In other words, we are to be so captivated by Him, so enraptured by Him, so deeply devoted to Him that all else becomes like naught – like nothing at all!  He is to be our best thought, and waking or sleeping, His presence is to be our light.  That’s fairly poetic, flowery language, to be sure, but this is perhaps a point that only poetry can illumine for us.  God is to be our everything.  God is to be our goal, our prize, our desire.  The goal of our lives, and the purpose of our lives is to be Jesus Christ – to know Him, to please Him, and to become like Him.  That is to be our vision.  That is what our lives are to be about . . . now, are we who we want to be?

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If you’re like me, you’ve probably got a bit of a sinking feeling in your stomach right about now.  So, Gentle Reader, you are in good company.  (I presume, since you’re bothering to read this post, that you consider me good company.)  We, none of us, have yet achieved what used to be called the “Beatific Vision” – the blessed goal of our lives, to see Jesus and to be like Him.  Nevertheless, I write all this not to shame us, nor to stymie us with guilt.  I write this to spur us all, as the author of Hebrews writes, to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24).  I write this so that we can all take stock of our lives, claim our true purpose and our true vision, and then shift into high gear.  I write this so that, like athletes, we may begin our training regimen, and so that, like musicians, we may begin the rigorous practice disciplines to hone our craft – for, unlike many Christians, athletes and musicians have figured out that results take discipline.  This is our life – are we who we want to be?  And are we wise enough to strive for it daily, and with discipline?

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For that is what disciples are – people who are disciplined.  Those words look alike for a reason:  they come from the same root.  If we want to achieve our vision, we need to be disciplined in our approach.  Classically, this means we will need to pray regularly.  We will need to read Scripture regularly, as well as studying it and meditating upon it.  Some of us may need to practice other of the classic spiritual disciplines, like solitude, silence, fasting, submission, service, and the like.  (I could write much more at length on this, but again, that’s another blog post for another day.)  Now, none of these may sound fun to you.  And, truth be told, sometimes it’s not fun.  (And sometimes . . . it is!)  It’s not always fun for the athlete to head to the gym or to the track.  Some days, it’s cold and rainy, and most of us would rather stay warm and dry.  It’s also not fun for the musician to dedicate himself or herself to a practice regimen.  There are often more fun things to do than to practice scales or arpeggios.  Nevertheless, this is what wise, mature athletes and musicians do – and this is what wise, mature Christians do.  We keep our vision, our goal before us, and we discipline ourselves to do what is necessary to reach that goal, always remembering that we do all this not in our own strength, but in the power of the Holy Spirit – God’s own power and presence in and with us.  This is our life, after all – the only life we get in the here and now.  Are we who we want to be?

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After all, who wants to get to the end of life and realize the sickening truth – that we are not who we want to be, not who we could have been, and that it’s too late to follow the vision?  Heaven forbid!

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Lord, give us the grace to be wise, to be disciplined, and to be who You call us to be – for Your glory!

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1Switchoot, “This Is Your Life”, by Jon Foreman.  Released September 21, 2004 on the album The Beautiful Letdown, Columbia/Red Ink, Sparrow Records.

2Vanauken, Sheldon.  A Severe Mercy.  (New York, Harper & Row, 1977).

3”Be Thou My Vision”, Trans. Mary E. Byrne, Versified Eleanor H. Hull.

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