by Rob Tims
I drove about 500 miles east of my hometown of Cleveland, MS to have the most awkward 4 months of my life.
I’m referring to the first semester of my freshman year of college.
You know: the one where I knew absolutely nobody and discovered pretty quickly that I had I didn’t know who I was either. I had multiple opportunities to introduce myself to individuals and groups, and each time I struggled to say anything meaningful, much less with any sort of winning conviction. I clearly wanted to be known, but I didn’t want to go through the process required. I wanted to show up on campus and instantly have what I would later have as a senior: an identity. I did not want to go through that awkward, painful, necessary process of exposing myself to others without knowing what they would do with me. I had to fail at being me and face rejection by others for being me in order to be great with me.
Once I met a girl who prominently wore a gold cross around our neck, so I pulled mine out from beneath my shirt so she could see it. She wasn’t impressed.
A big gold cross dangling from my lanky neck, people. Seriously?! I can still see this girl and her suitemates talking about the awkward skinny dork with zero social skills but who apparently liked jewelry. UGH. What a failure.
Yet it does not define me forever. Maybe for a few weeks, but not forever. I would later come to see that, as a Christian, I have an identity, one that overcomes all of my failures that I usually experience in pursuit of another, lesser identity (ironic, I know).
Ephesians 1:3-14 is a rich text, but a high-altitude look illustrates this very thing. The gospel covers all of our sins mixed in with all our failures (vv. 3-10). Every failure we have ever had of the simplest and most innocent kind has sin mixed in with it, and the good news of the Bible is that such failures don’t define or damn us. We have the gospel. We have the forgiveness of sins through the blood of Jesus. His grace is sufficient for turning our failures into successes (vv. 11-14).
Don’t let that be too heady of a thing for you. It’s immensely practical when you think about it a little. Why do any of us get mad when someone confronts us about our behavior? Why do we quickly remind those who would confront us that they surely have logs in their own eyes? In part, we do it because we fail to remember that our identity is not in our ancestry or actions, but in Jesus. If we did, we’d be quick to admit weakness. We’d be ready to own our failures before God and others. And we’d be better people because of it.
I encourage you to spend some time reflecting on this passage. Doing so will allow you to walk into a room of people you don’t know with confidence that you are well-known by the One who matters most, and that you know full well who you are. That’s the kind of person people want to get to know.
Rob Tims is husband to Holly and father to Trey, Jono, Abby Jane and Luke. He’s the author of Southern Fried Faith: Confusing Christ and Culture in the Bible Belt, and manages the team behind smallgroup.com at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville. He writes regularly at RobTims.com and blogs every Friday at Forward Progress.