David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them. "I cannot go in these," he said to Saul, "because I am not used to them." So he took them off. – 1 Samuel 17:39
Growing up and even today, I always appreciate the story of the young David, before he became king. The youngest of his siblings, David wasn’t even considered by his father, Jesse, as one who might be anointed king over Israel. Indeed, the prophet Samuel when looking at the other brothers was initially inclined to anoint one who seemed like the natural fit, but God had other intentions. In 1 Samuel 16:7 we read, “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” And so, Samuel asks Jesse if there is another son and he summons David who is anointed King.
One of the greatest lessons that I have learned about God through the process of accepting myself, with all of my paradoxes, is how God's grace is so AMAZING. Just as God did with David, so he does with each of us—He looks at our hearts, our character, and our truest selves. In speaking to the prophet Jeremiah, God says: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). God knows us, loves us, and has a plan for us. Learning to accept this profound reality is essential in understanding who we truly are. It also requires us to unlearn what we have thought about ourselves for so long.
A sociologist name Charles Cooley formulated the concept of the “looking glass self.” In layman’s terms, it basically posits that our identity is shaped by what we think the most important person(s) in our lives think about us. Throughout our lives, we have many important people: parents, family, and friends. Also, sometimes we make people important, who really are not in the long run. Nonetheless, our thoughts and feelings about the perception of others about ourselves shape how we see ourselves and ultimately who we become. Proverbs 23:7 (KJV) states, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Unfortunately, our thinking is not always our own and is not shaped by the one who truly matters—God. We take on the perceptions of others and call it 'truth', without ever examining whether it is the right fit, or truth, for us.
In 1 Samuel 17, we see that the Israelites are being tormented by Goliath. Day and night he is demeaning them and they begin to see themselves as he calls it. They buy into the deception and they are afraid. In verse 16, David enters on to the scene
and cannot believe what he is seeing and hearing, not from Goliath, but from his fellow Israelites. And so, David steps forward to take on Goliath. David was armed with a God-given identity and the assurance that came with it, but immediately his fellow countrymen tried to dissuade him from going out to challenge Goliath. Then in verses 38-39, King Saul gets David to put on his personal armor, but it did not fit David. Instead, he went out dressed like the shepherd boy that he was and brought down Goliath with five smooth stones.
David knew who he was because it was just confirmed by the prophet one chapter earlier. He had a God-given identity and because of that he knew what fit him and what did not. He did not succumb to the temptation to fit in with the others, rather he embraced his uniqueness and shed the hand-me-down armor of those were too afraid to fight for themselves. Of course, David had to ultimately wait for 20 years before finally becoming king of Israel. Perhaps this was necessary to truly learn his God-given identity and to embrace it, so that he would truly be “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22).
How many times are we like David with others trying to impose their identities upon us? How many time are we unlike David and willingly accept those identities because we want to fit in or it is simply easier? For so many years, my identity was based on trying to make other people happy and it came at a great expense because it didn’t make any of us happy. Most people are uncomfortable in their own “armor” to even think about your “armor.” As I tell people often, no one is thinking about you as often as you are thinking about yourself.
Above is a clip from the movie, "Love, Simon." In the scene, the mother is played by Jennifer Garner, and she affirms her son's identity after he came out to his family as gay. She tells him, "As soon as you came out, you said, “Mom, I’m still me.” I need you to hear this. You are still you, Simon. You are still the same son who I love to tease, and who your father depends on for just about everything. And you’re the same brother who always complements his sister on her food, even when it sucks. But you get to exhale now, Simon. You get to be more you than you have been in, in a very long time. You deserve everything you want."
I truly believe this is a message that God wants ALL of us to hear: "You are still YOU...you are still the same child that I love" and He wants us to be the best version of ourselves because He thinks we are AWESOME! Don't let anyone tell you that you are not.
Learning to be comfortable in your own skin is difficult. Simon states it pretty succulently in the movie, "Who you are to the world is pretty terrifying because what if the world doesn’t like you?"
Just remember: The world didn't accept Jesus--but He is still the King. The world does not get to define YOU and the world does NOT have the last word!
Dr. Rob Weinstein is an Associate Professor of Business Studies/ Chair of Human Resource Management Studies. He is the Founder and President of the M25 Initiative, a nonprofit dedicated to ending homelessness in Cumberland County, NJ. He is also the Founding Pastor of Bethany Grace Community Church in Bridgeton, NJ.
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