Monday, April 27, 2015

On Being a Chameleon...

As a shy, introverted youngster, I quickly learned that the best way to stay out of trouble was to give the people around me what they wanted. I soon learned to carefully observe each social setting I was in to see what was expected of me. This method proved quite effective at getting people to like and approve of me. Worked great in school too. While I enjoy learning, I was an excellent student mostly because I couldn't bear to disappoint the adult at the front of the room. By the time I entered college I had pretty much become a chameleon—an expert at going along to get along.
Fast forward a few years—well, a lot of years—and though I know better and God has led me out of the worst of it, I sometimes still find myself defaulting to this behavior. It's that ingrained. That deep-seated desire for approval sometimes causes me to be less myself, for to expose my 'real' self can (and sometimes does) cause disapproval... even dislike. And I know I'm not alone.  Wearing a mask is a pretty common defense mechanism for those of the human persuasion. Ever since the day Adam and Eve tried to hide themselves from God to avoid disapproval, humans have been trying to show only their best face.  

When I think of the marvelous complexity of our world and the uniqueness of each individual in it, it's sad to think I've expended so much energy trying to be like everyone else. Especially when God went to considerable trouble to make us different. Before the world was created, God decided when and where each of us would be born and gave us a unique combination of appearance, intellect, personality and talents. All that was perfectly balanced with the needs of history, the needs of His kingdom and our personal needs. Talk about diversity! We are called to unity, but that never meant identical, interchangeable people.

So what am I doing when I conform myself to the crowd's way of doing things? Or only talk about safe topics? Or ape the personality traits of a friend? Though it's not conscious, I'm subtly rejecting who God made me to be. I'm denying the unique flavor I might bring to a conversation. I’m trading an opportunity to contribute what God placed in me for just that moment for the momentary comfort of belonging, or the perceived safety of not stirring the pot. Or worst of all, to influence someone to like me or think I'm _______ (nice, funny, fill in the blank).

Being a chameleon may feel safer, but it’s the false security of a prison cell. It conceals the deepest parts of me from my friends. How can they learn to encourage me, exhort me, or call me to account—you know, love me—if they don't know the real me? God intends that the give and take of our relationships be part of His plan to grow us up into the image of Jesus. We need to encounter both the good and the bad in those around us in order to learn kindness, practice patience and exercise persistence. To learn to love one another the way He loves us. So those of you in the school of Lynda can rejoice that you're on the fast track to holiness. ;)
The old bumper sticker is as appropriate as ever: "Please be patient with me, God's not finished with me yet!" I need fresh power to humbly allow others to see who I really am, warts and all, knowing that sometimes I'm just a mess. I want to extend grace to others, so they feel comfortable being transparent with me as well. We are all in this together, learning to be more like Jesus. Most of all, I am asking for a deeper revelation of the love of God, which helps me with me and helps me with others too. God wants to unveil the unique gifts and talents He's placed within each one of us--chameleons He has already.

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