I am passionate about identifying and extracting people’s unique talents and encouraging them to develop those gifts to their full God given potential. I strongly believe that all human beings are uniquely gifted and have amazing potential to have a positive impact in our world and on eternity. When we are empowered and are encouraged to embrace and use our authentic uniqueness for God’s glory, we find ourselves in a place where we can flourish, thrive, and potentially fulfill our calling and purpose in life. As I encourage my own four children to embrace their God given uniqueness, I also encourage them to model Jesus Christ.
And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ. (1 Cor. 11:1 NLT)
This morning, my 12-year-old son stopped me in my tracks before he was leaving for school. Ozzie had a very sincere and intelligent question for me that he wanted an answer to before he launched himself into his day at school. Ozzie looked me straight in the eyes and asked, “Dad, you know how you say to always be yourself and don’t try to be like anyone else? But, then you also tell us to be like Jesus. How then can we be just like ourselves, but also be trying to be like Jesus?” Whoa! If I am honest, I have never really stopped to ponder this, but it is a fantastic question that is worth pondering. My immediate answer was somewhere along the lines of us embracing our creative and artistic uniqueness (style, taste, preference, talents), but aspiring the characteristics of Jesus (love, joy, peace, patience, all the fruit of the Spirit). I explained very quickly how his preference for long hair, rock music, and vintage cars is uniquely Ozzie, but showing love and mercy and grace towards people is to be like Christ. Off he went to school, and I couldn’t stop thinking about his question. I believe this question deserves more serious contemplation. How do we honestly and holistically embrace our uniqueness, yet at the same time (and most importantly) aspire to be like someone else (namely Jesus)? I know what my son was thinking. Isn’t this a contradiction? Be like no one else, only be yourself, but be like Jesus. Seriously, if we slow down and think hard about this, it is deep. I felt my short, quick answer was on track, but there is so much more to be unpacked.
I believe we must acknowledge and embrace that all humans are made in the image of God. Every person is an authentic (real original), unique (one-of-a-kind) creation of God, and we are made in His likeness.
When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God (Gen. 5:1 ESV)
Every human being, whether they are a Christian or not, is made in the likeness of God and has unique God given abilities, talents, and personality. Jesus of Nazareth was God in the flesh; Jesus is God incarnate.
No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us (John 1:18 NLT)
Jesus came to redeem all that was lost due to the inception of sin and the fall of man. Sin and separation from God distorts and robs our authentic uniqueness, but Christ is the bridge where we can actually gain our authentic uniqueness back. This, I believe, is the key to understanding how we are to be authentically unique, the way God made us, but are also called to be like Christ. Time spent with Jesus is actually where we regain our uniqueness and can fully understand and embrace our uniqueness. Jesus gives us the confidence to be unique the way that we were designed to be unique.
The Lord said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft (Exodus 31:1-5 ESV)
Let me be clear that I believe that everyone is an “artist”, created in the likeness of the Master Artist. Artistry is not reserved for fine artists and musicians only. Whether you are a business executive, entrepreneur, medical professional, real estate agent, investor, athlete, minister, stay at home mom, whatever your calling, career, or profession, God has gifted you with unique abilities, personality, and creativity that He desires for you to use for His purposes and for your ultimate fulfillment. We are all authentic, unique artists, but we must ask ourselves if we are using our uniqueness for God’s intended purposes, for our own selfish purpose, or for someone else. Read 1 Corinthians 12. It is amazing to read how God gave us all different gifts to ultimately help one another. No matter what we are called or gifted to do, the ultimate goal is 1 Corinthians 13 – love.
God gives unique talents to each individual with the intended purpose for those talents to be used for others, not for selfishness or greedy purposes. Using our gifts is satisfying, but cannot be fully satisfying or fulfilling when used outside of God’s intended scope. When used to bring glory to God and to benefit others, only then will our talents be fully realized, achieved, and completely satisfying. Being true to ourselves and embracing our uniqueness can only be fully discovered by being like Jesus. We need to embrace our uniqueness, stay true to ourselves, be authentic, and be like Christ. The further we move away from Christ, the further our God given uniqueness and potential for greatness is blurred and distorted. On the other hand, the closer we get to Christ, the closer our God given uniqueness reaches it’s full potential and we can have the greatest impact on our world for the greatest good.
For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn (Rom. 11:29 NLT)
People crave authenticity and people know it when they see it, feel it, smell it, taste it, or hear it. Authenticity, by definition, cannot be faked. Fake authenticity is an oxymoron. God has never created a fake human being. God only creates unique authentic human beings that are made in His likeness. Until we embrace our authenticity and our uniqueness, which is miraculously found in Christ, we will not be fully satisfied, nor will we have the positive eternal impact that God created us for. Furthermore, Jesus was, is, and forever will be truly authentic and uniquely unique. There is no one like Jesus. He is God, the Creator of every spec of uniqueness that has ever been endowed to any of mankind. Christ encapsulates every ounce of uniqueness that has ever been or ever will be created from eternity to eternity.
Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see – such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. (Colossians 1:15-22 NLT)
Think about that for a minute, or twelve! Whoa!
Be yourself! Be like Christ!
*A shortened version of this post was published in the May 2017 edition of Homefront Magazine
~Recommended reading for further insight on this topic: REFLECT: Becoming Yourself by Mirroring the Greatest Person in History, Thaddeus J. Williams, Weaver Publishing, 2017.