Almost four months ago, I finally caved and ordered a Giving Key necklace for myself after years of hoping someone else would buy one for me simply because they were on sale for the fourth of July. When selecting a word to be pressed into the key, I saw “become.” I had been reading (and still am reading…) Everybody Always by Bob Goff, which discusses the mindset and actions we must make habitual through Christ in order to become love. I thought the word “become” was nice and simple, not too cliché. Perfect. Little did I know how significant this word would become in the months ahead.
To my surprise, when I was supposed to leave for Lake Champion as a camper the following day, I joined the Work Crew. While the opportunity and decision seemed pretty spontaneous to me that day, it’s so clear that God had it planned out from the very beginning. In my three weeks as a server at that beautiful camp in Glen Spey, New York, I was surrounded by strangers that quickly became brothers and sisters in Christ and I was constantly encouraged by the growth I witnessed, both in myself and in the people around me. I saw who we were becoming and it brought me such great joy.
Coming back from Work Crew, I wanted to bring that type of mindset home – the servant mentality, the constant prayer, but specifically to continue making the choice to see people for who they are becoming and will become. I want to meet people where they are, but I pray that God would give me little glimpses of the great big plans He has for every person I encounter. I feel so blessed to have friends here at Baylor who already choose to see me for who God made me to be and not for the moments when I’m insensitive or unkind. The faith they have in who I am because of my identity in Him is absolutely insane to me given how short of a time we’ve known each other.
Now that I’m in college, I’m “church shopping” here in Waco and trying to figure out which of the countless available college ministries are the best fits for me and my schedule. For the past three weeks, I’ve attended Antioch’s college ministry service on Wednesday nights. The messages have been incredible every time, but this past week’s message hit a little different. Luke Whyte, Antioch’s college pastor, talked to us about how we are not defined by our past sins and how we don’t have to carry them anymore. While we should be responsible and honest in regard to what we have said and done, we do not have to claim our sin as our identity. That’s what the cross was for. Every bit of torture that Jesus went through, every strike made by the cat of nine tails, every step He made with the cross on His back, every nail that attached Him to the cross – our sin went through that too. The difference between Jesus’ and our sin’s experience in the crucifixion? Our sin didn’t resurrect, Jesus did. Our sin is still in the tomb, as far removed from us as it could be. As soon as we say yes to a relationship with God, He sees us as clean.
For much of my senior year, I felt like I was carrying a backpack full of bricks. Each brick was a mistake I made while thinking about how God wouldn’t want that for me. I felt isolated because I was ashamed of the sin I continued to commit while I thought I was supposed to be “on the other side of my testimony.” I gave my life to Christ a few years prior, I had done Work Crew, I shared my testimony with my area at the YoungLife county banquet, I was leading Wyldlife – I thought the rest of my life was supposed to be a series of good times with the occasional challenge, which I’d face with God on my side and easily defeat. I thought I was living on the peak of the other side of my spiritual struggles. I’m going to let you in on a little secret: there is no “other side” of your testimony. Your story isn’t that diagram of a book plot your English teachers showed you in grade school, it’s a mountain range. I’m learning that season means more than just when the leaves fall or when it gets warm enough to go to the pool. God knows sometimes it’s harder to lean into Him, and He’s still working in what we feel are dark times. When I’m hiding from Him He can still see me, and He calls me child.
Hearing Luke’s message after a guilt-ridden preceding year was so eye-opening for me. He told us a story about a football coach who, rather than screaming “don’t do that” to players who messed up during games (like most coaches), would kindly shout “that ain’t you baby!” That is who our God is. He doesn’t want us to carry the burden of sins He already died for. The temptations of our old selves that we’re drawn to are habits of our old flesh, not who we are. Because of the cross, God can have a direct relationship with us. This relationship isn’t one that sends us to timeout when we sin for the millionth time that day, but one that says “that’s not who you are” when we return to the ways of the dead flesh we left behind when we accepted life with Christ as a new creation.
God doesn’t see us for who we were or even for the messed up beings we are, He sees us for who He knows we’ll become. God has a plan and He doesn’t make mistakes, so I know the hard uphill stretches of my journey with Him are only making me stronger in our relationship. And the best part is, I don’t even have to carry that backpack full of sin bricks – God told me to leave it at home because we won’t need it in the final destination we’re running towards. I am so grateful for my God who has a vision for who I’ll be and I continue to pray that He would help me to view my friends and those around me with that same perspective. “Become” is a pretty dang cool word and I’m glad I get to remind myself with that discounted key necklace that I want to be obedient every day to the steps He would have me make to become exactly who He designed me to be.
Thanks for reading! I pray that you understand that you are not your past. The burden of your sin was left in the tomb. And that truth, my friends, is something to rejoice in.