I’m dented. In many places, I have dents – dents and scratches from the ‘hit-and-runs’ of life and her mercenaries. Dents from her words and his actions and dents from their stares. I’ve lost, in many ways, the purity of my identity; the way my Creator fashioned me: for the sake of conformity.
I dent, daily.
I struggle. I remember being young and looking for love in all the wrong places because I was consumed by a need – an empty space inside that needed to be filled, so I filled it with all the wrong things and all the wrong bits around the wrong people. I dented my identity to fit into those circles when my mould wasn’t so elastic, so it broke . . . and I still struggle.
“You’re too loud, hush!”
“You’re too playful, halt!”
You’re too . . . not like me, stop!”
So I stopped being me and forgot who I was as I tried to mould myself into what every emotional bully felt I should have been when I didn’t fit their standards at that particular moment: and their standards had their moments too, soon I had fallen away from them and found myself trying to catch up again.
“Tosin, you can’t live to please everyone. If you tried, you’ll never be who God made you. What pleases the first person you meet might not please the next, soon you’ll forget who you really are, and you’ll be a chameleon changing colours only to survive but never really living!”
I wept the night I heard those words from my dad. He always knew how to get under my skin to fix those dents. But some of them needed more than the words of my earthly father; someone greater had to step in.
I remember after the first semester of my first year of uni, I went to my department to check my result. The fact that I felt I had done enough boldly sent me there hoping for the best. As I approached the information board, I started to skim through for my name at the top of the list and gradually found myself heading towards the bottom. To my utmost shock, I really had done just enough, enough to remain in the class. I was broken. Shattered to pieces. I knew I could have done better, so how on earth did that happen? As I made my way back to my hostel, I decided that I would change for the better. I’ll stop smiling at people, because, just maybe I was too playful. I’ll stay in my room, lock the door and engulf myself in my books – all the times I spent outside with others around must have contributed to my failure. I decided to be a recluse.
And God laughed.
As I got to my room, He asked me:
“Do you know how much gladness your smile brings to the hearts of those around you? Do you know I made you and filled you with such radiating joy, enough to share with the hurting world around you? Would you selfishly deny others the gift I so graciously gave because you hope to conform to a standard I haven’t set for you?”
I did learn my lesson that day, and reversed my selfish decision – and from then on, I began to realise how special God had made me. You see, I never really have to work hard to well up joy within me, it’s just there, and it flows in so many ways and in so many forms – it could only be a gift. But there have been so many times I have tried to kill it because, in the opinion of someone, I’m not their cup of tea. So I try to conform to their standards so I’ll be accepted . . . how foolish of me, and I never really have stopped being foolish.
Deliver me, Lord!
I read about twelve men who were called to walk with the greatest man who ever lived. As I read, I saw so many moulds in the twelve: the loud, the quiet, the scheming, the petty, the zealot, the doubter and the one who loved to be loved, all there because they were chosen for a purpose.
If Jesus had shut Peter up at every opportunity, exalting John’s ‘prim-and-properness’ over him, there would have been no boldness in the mould to work with when the Holy Spirit came to fill it, cos Peter would have dented himself to fit what he thought the Lord might have preferred. And if the Lord resisted John’s clinging like a child looking for love, how would John have understood the deep meaning of the love of Jesus, and of the Father, to be able to write so extensively about it? Everyone with their different attributes and temperaments mattered to Jesus, just the way they were . . . and just the way I am, I matter to Him too.
* * *
Where’s the fun if all the world tiptoed in stilettoes and there were no running shoes?
Where’s the fun if all the world shouted at the top of their voices and there were no whispers?
Where’s the fun if all the world were me and there was no you?
Yet I sit in my Father’s house wondering if I should cross my legs or spread them out because someone wrote some unwritten rules that have caged the very expression of our worship: COME!
We’ve told ourselves that to be accepted is to conform to the man-made standards that others have set, that even they cannot meet.
But have you ever wondered to yourself that if I pretended to be who I wasn’t, I would not have been noticed by the one who now calls me the love of his life? Have you ever wondered if the person that I am is key to the fulfilment of the destinies of those around me? Yet you seek that I conform to your mould and destroy the very possibility of that which is meant to be?
Yes, there is time for everything: A time to be sad and a time to rejoice. A time to be quiet and a time to be loud. A time to sit still and a time to run around, a time to be serious and a time to joke around; but there is never a time to destroy another’s self-esteem. There is never a time to make anyone feel like they are beneath you just because they are different. There is never a time to exalt your mould over another.
If anyone must change who God has made them just to gain your love, respect, acceptance or even your acknowledgement of their humanity, then you have become the wrong crowd to hang around.
But it’s not all your fault, I take blame too:
If every day I choose to remember who I am in Christ, I would not be moved by any pressure to conform. If I realise to the very depths of me that I am loved by the King, I would not continue to look for acceptance in your eyes. If my identity was planted firmly in the One who gave His life for me, I would not be tossed and turned like waves of the ocean, denting myself like I have always done.
So I sent my dented self back to the One who fashioned me and asked that He panel beat me, but He said He had something better in mind:
“I’ll make you all new again!”
Today, my identity is secured in the One who made me, the One who loves me just as I am. The One who fashioned me and said I am good. The One who chose me to be a source of joy and laughter and noise to the world around me. All that He requires is that I die daily, not dent daily. Die to myself so that in me His glory may be seen, exposed, exploding the very essence of His varied nature through you and I. Loving everyone for who they have been created to be according to the standards of His Word alone. Allowing personalities find their place in the world, where they can express their positivity and flourish – where our diversity is the thing that truly unites us.
Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact, God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 1 Corinthians 12:15-20