My oldest daughter is convinced that she is a “germaphobe”. She is in that pre-teen age range that starts to obsess over identity. All of those labels that are so stereotypical of school start to surface during this time. So, my daughter has chosen “germaphobe” as her identity. I am sure she will graduate to more profound identities but for now she likes to tell people about her need to wash hands and avoid other people’s food germs.
The power of suggestion in these matters is very impactful. I remember in college how often friends jabbed me on how intolerant I was of things and that I was a little grumpy. I have carried a nickname, Sloth, for most of my life that carries a very distinct connotation as to what kind of person I am. Over time, these labels move from conversation starters and ways to draw attention to ourselves to levels of identity that we grow attached to. Into adulthood, I grew attached to my identity as someone who was aloof and standoffish and introverted. But as Christ began shaping me into something that more resembles him, I found myself becoming more outgoing, friendlier, and willing to extend myself. I remember even questioning myself at times as to what I was doing? “I am not supposed to be this outgoing!” “Why am I being so friendly?”
Maybe the aspect of spiritual growth that you fear the most is losing your identity, even if that identity is less than desirable. These attributes that we have carried around for years have a huge hold on us and to lose them, even if they are replaced with more meaningful and productive things, can be fearful. I am glad that God has made me a more loving, generous, and hospitable person and I much prefer this identity to the alternative but in the early stages of this particular change in my life I had to break the attachment I had to my unchanged identity.
Do you fear that people will look at you differently if you become more like Christ? Have you grown too attached to your unchanged self? May God give you a vision for the real you, the you that has been changed to more resemble his son, Jesus Christ.