Pinnochio, the Ugly Duckling, and Paul

Yesterday, I argued that you can see from the structure of Paul’s letters that he had a “believe, become, behave” model of the spiritual journey of Christ-followers. Today I want to continue that discussion with an illustration that I think is both silly and helpful. So let’s talk about a couple of children’s stories.

First of all, there’s Pinnochio.

Pinnochio was a wooden puppet fashioned by Gipetto, who admittedly was a little strange because when he got lonely, he made a puppet. One night the Blue Fairy came down and made the puppet into a quasi-real boy. That is to say, he was sort of real, in that he “got no strings to hold him down, to make him fret, or make him frown.” But he was still made of wood. But the blue fairy told him that if he could prove himself to be worthy, he would be made into a fully real boy. And, after some unfortunate incidents involving smoking cigars and gambling, Pinnochio did prove himself and was made real.

That’s exactly how I know I have approached my relationship with God in the past. I recognize that he began the work in me, making me sort of real, but I was living to prove myself and become something different. Something new. Something real.

And that’s a perfect way to describe the “believe, behave, become” model. But the “believe, become, behave” model isn’t like Pinnochio; it’s like the Ugly Duckling.

He had a very different story. The Ugly Duckling spent his early days trying to fit in, to be something he was not. But no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t quack right, get his feathers to look right, or shrink his neck to the appropriate size. He lived a very sad life until one day he looked into the clear water of a the lake and saw his own reflection. And he realized that he didn’t need to become something different; he needed to start recognizing and living out who he already was.

Maybe a “watershed” moment in the life of the believer is when the Holy Spirit walks us to the proverbial water and forces our eyes downward and quietly whispers, “Remember who you are.” We have already become something new in Christ. And what is left for us to do is to live out that new identity, not in order to become something different, but because we already are something different.

How does that kind of belief system change the way we relate to God? Love to know your thoughts.

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  • Courtney says:

    I’ve often thought “I need to fix all my problems, then God can work in my life.” With the “believe, become, behave” model I think that we stop focusing on ourselves, and we begin to focus on God.

  • Michael K. says:

    I agree, Courtney – I think this model puts the emphasis on God’s work in you rather than your work on yourself. Thanks for the comment.

  • joan teal says:

    I’ve never thought of the ugly duckling in this way, but it resonates with me, when He shows us who we are in Him, there is freedom…thanks for writing this

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