I grew up in the Midwest, but I moved to California to attend graduate school. I have to admit that it was quite a culture shock to go from cornfields to concrete, from rolling hills to mountains and beaches, from blue skies to smog, and from 2 lane country roads to 12 lane highways – with traffic stopped in both directions! But there was another more subtle difference, one that I didn’t pick up on right away. Students begin to compete for practicum placements in the second year of my graduate program. During these interviews, I noticed how bold many of the students were in answering questions. They had no hesitation in proclaiming their many accomplishments. It seemed brash at best and arrogant at worst. I was more subtle in my answers and often downplayed my accomplishments. This was what I was taught to do. I’d walk away believing I had interviewed well but would rarely get the placement. Thankfully, one of my professors, who was also a transplant from the Midwest, took note. She pulled me aside and explained that I was experiencing a major cultural difference. In the Midwest, humility is highly valued and appearing proud is avoided at all costs. She explained that this is not so on the West Coast. What I was interpreting as brash, was really students advocating for themselves. She challenged me to step out of my comfort zone and to do the same.
It seems like when it comes to accepting our identity in Christ, it can feel a little like bragging or boasting. It can feel selfish and prideful to even begin to think of ourselves as anything but horribly sinful people. It’s so easy to forget that God created us and called us very good. Therefore, if you do not love and accept yourself, you are actually in disagreement with God because He loves and accepts you! It is so important to accept God’s love and in doing so learn to love yourself, not in a selfish way but in a way that simply affirms God’s creation (you) as good and right and beautiful. Just like my interviewers couldn’t know about my real talents and abilities until I told them, a hurting world can’t know of God’s love until you tell them through the way you love others. And you cannot give away love that you haven’t truly accepted for yourself. See, our confidence does not come from our own abilities or achievements. No, our confidence comes from our identity in Christ and what God does through us by the power of the Holy Spirit.
And one last thought… anytime we don’t shine as brightly as God intended us to, we are robbing Him of glory due Him. Any shine we have is simply a reflection of His glory. So let’s learn to shine brightly and boast, not about our own abilities, but about God’s grace and goodness. Let’s accept how much God loves each and everyone of us and confident share that love with others!