In the last blog, we discussed how to arrive at true personality, namely by not defining oneself prematurely and by allowing all qualities to go through refinement through interaction with Jesus over a longer period of time. The desire to find “true personality” and not be stifled by premature definitions is a great and good enough reason to not define yourself or those around you prematurely by certain qualities or traits. It is a great reason to sign up for a journey of transformation instead of a premature self definition. However, there is in my estimation, a still more glorious reason why we are to aim to not box ourselves or others in with, “I am this or I am not that” but are instead to seek a long process of near limitless expansion. That reason is simple but breathtaking: we are to be imitators of God.
A theme throughout the Scriptures is the calling to be like God. Most people will, on some level, admit this, or at least will admit to the calling to imitate Jesus. To simply look at the New Testament, Jesus, Paul, and Peter all agree as usual: “Therefore you shall be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and walk in love as Christ loved.” “As He who called you is holy, so you shall be holy in all your ways, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (Matthew 5:48, Ephesians 5:1-2, 1 Peter 1:15-16). Though the context of all of these verses is well worth analyzing, the basic meaning in all three is the same. The believers are being told to be as God is.
So what does this have to do with personality? Well, I must ask you, “Who is God?” What is his personality like? It is, at the least, quite multi-faceted. It is difficult for me to think of a paradigm that has more mapped my intentions than a belief that God is many things and I am to aim to be all of them, that His personality is crazy and I am to imitate it. Now, as a caveat, there are certain qualities of God we cannot possess: we cannot be the Lord of the cosmos, no matter how hard we may strive to be in all our fears. No matter how much we love, we will never be Love, the source of love, or the author of love. No matter how hard we think, we will never be able to know the universe the way God does. It is also almost certainly (but not necessarily) true that we will not be able to feel or think as complexly as God does, though I am willing to surrender this one.
However, there are a myriad of ways that we can certainly be like God, and it is for this reason primarily that I aim my life and those around me to not be narrowed by definitions, but to be like God! One of the ways we can be like God, I am determined to believe, is in His pathos, His feelings. Now don’t get me wrong, this takes years, decades, maybe even eons, but oh what a wondrous adventure. Oh do we know the world that opens up to us when we determine to feel as God feels! It is near endless! Because God is not an INFP or an ESTJ. God is not one color or representative by an animal or two. God feels SO many different things, desires in so many different ways. Look at Jesus, God in the flesh: Jesus weeps in compassion (Jn 11:35), rages in anger (Jn 2:14-16, Isa. 63:1-6), longs like a mother (Mat 23:37), is consumed with zeal (Jn 2:17), leaps with joy (Luke 10:21), fears God (Isa. 11:3), overflows with love (Mark 10:21, Luke 23:33), and perseveres determinedly (Luke 22:42). And these are just feelings! Beyond the pathos (though not quite as exciting to me), He has a brilliant mind! He answers wisely (Jn 8:1-11), has a good memory, argues well, knew the Scriptures, and was clever (Luke 20:34-44, among many). The point is Jesus’ personality is in no way narrowly defined: He enjoys being alone (Mat 14:23, Mk 6:47, Luke 9:18) and being with people (Mat. 17:1, Mat. 26:37, Luke 15:2). He could be so quiet and even when it wouldn’t make sense to be (Mat. 27:13) or He could be the loudest person, centered on by all around Him (Mat. 4:25, Lk 9:11). He is strong and valiant (Rev. 19:11-16) but so gentle and so lowly (Mat 11:29). He could rebuke fiercely (Mat. 23, Mark 8:33) and have mercy on someone with the utmost tenderness (Mat. 9:36, Jn 8:10-11). He weeps (Jn 11:35) and shouts (Mat. 27:46), leaps (Luke 10:21) and sits (Mat 5:1). And it is Him that we are to imitate!
God throughout the whole of Scripture is portrayed no differently. He is full of delight (Deu. 7:7, Zeph 3:17, Psa 18:19), He pains over situations of pain (Isa 58:5-10), is like a father to his people (Deu 33:12), He fights for them protectively (Psa 18), He is terrifyingly angry over sin (Deu. 32:22), and he knits his children in the womb, thinking thousands of thoughts of them (Psa 139:14-18). He rebukes fiercely (2 Sam. 12:11, Eze. 13:3) and loves with indescribable tenderness (Hosea 11:8, Isa. 54:1-11, Ezekiel 16:4-14). God has the vastest range of emotions one could begin to imagine, and we are to be imitators of Him!
Oh let us wake up people! Let us wake up to this overwhelming reality and let it find entrance into us. Am I person who feels greatly?! Yes! Do I want to be limited in what those feelings look like by unbiblical limitations? No! So don’t permit yourself to be limited. The world is going to tell you that you are a feeler or thinker, that you are an extrovert or an introvert, that you are a judger or a perceiver, that you are a melancholy person or a sanguine person, etc. Grant yourself to be as God is! Be holy as He is holy! Cry! Leap! Laugh! Shout! Tremble! Dance! Long! Pant! Be silent! Be sober! Be strong! Be gentle! Be calm! Be tender! Be meek! Be filled! Be weak! Be as God is!
So what does this look like, since obviously we cannot feel all of these emotions at one time (probably) and many in fact are seemingly in contradiction experientially? Allow yourself to contain all of them so that the Holy Spirit can highlight whatever He wants whenever He wants. Become a student of God’s emotions, of Jesus’ emotions, of God’s fuller personality, of Jesus’ fuller personality. And make one of the primary aims of Your life (if not the aim) to be like Him in all His wonder. In my life, the Holy Spirit highlights quality after quality after quality and adds it to me. He does this with those around me as well. Aim to be constantly learning from Him about Him in a way that transfers His life into your own. Allow him to bring up tenderness in you, to bring up quietness in you, to bring up power in you, to bring up loud joy in you, to bring up giggly gooeyness in you, to bring up terrifying passion in you, to bring up heart-rending longing in you, to bring up righteous anger in you, to bring up shattering fear of God in you, to bring up lovesick wonder in you and all the emotions along the way you must feel to get to them. Allow Him to show you who He is and then to show you who you truly are to be, like Him. Allow Him to brighten and employ your mind like you never thought possible, to change your perspective and “personality” in ways you never dreamed, to cause you to be silent and hidden or loud and visible. Let go of self-protecting, narrowing definitions, and line up with the Holy Spirit’s decree through Paul to be imitators of the Beautiful One! Most practically, let Him highlight what he wants, one after another, and walk you through it. It is your job to position yourself, be open and to say yes.
If you will allow Him to take you on a journey, of seeing who He is and of letting Him do to You whatever He wants, over time, your inner life will be full of jewels, jewels of a thousand different colors, jewels of tenderness and quietness and jewels of trembling and shaking, jewels of vibrancy and loudness and jewels of weeping and compassion. They will each take months to develop even initially and years overall but overtime they will all glisten inside of you. And then, the beautiful part, the reason for it all: the Holy Spirit breathes on whichever one he wants to and it comes to life shining at just the right moments. Whether it is in ministry or in personal relating to God or in corporate musical worship, as you surrender your life to God like this and He takes control and makes You as He sees fit, He will start to come out automatically, or better put, the you that is like Him will start to come out automatically. And that’s right I said it, automatically.
This is the goal, to be like God, naturally by the power of the Holy Spirit and the life of God cultivated in you. My goal is not to have to constantly self-analyze and will myself through gritted teeth into the proper response to any situation; my goal is most certainly not incessant calculation and striving. My goal is to give my life to being crafted in the likeness of God so that in any given moment the Holy Spirit can breathe on whatever dimension of God is necessary and it will shine forth.
I can tell you truthfully, after living this way for six years, that I already get to see fruit from it that still blows my mind. I will be simply talking to someone in a casual setting and will suddenly begin to feel and that feeling will be exactly what that individual needed to hear, far clearer, detailed, and more specific than I could have ever thought up (let it be known that as far as I am aware my natural sinful propensity has been to worship my mind and think, not to feel). Sometimes it is still stunning to me when it happens even though I labor for this to be possible. There was a time recently I was talking to someone, and I found myself suddenly crying and speaking things to him I felt, which the Holy Spirit used to move him to tears. On the other hand, I can think of twice right now when I have begun shaking with zeal against someone’s sin, and I truly do believe it was the Lord’s heart; in both settings, the Holy Spirit used it to bear repentance in the individual’s life. Just recently, actually on a day when the atmosphere was happy and we were celebrating someone’s birthday, I suddenly found myself feeling this sobering, weighty eschatological sense that applied to circumstances I did not yet mentally know were occurring. Even in difficult circumstances, the natural response has happened often (though I still need mountains of work): there have been several times when someone has been extremely angry in front of me or even at me, and I find myself with this gleeful joy, honestly confusing sometimes and making me wonder if it was good or not, but then the response it has on the person assures me that the Lord is smiling too. The list could go on, but I think you get the picture. The multi-faceted response of God to humanity in the Scriptures has, after only six years, begun to flow naturally out of me to my fellow humanity. (So I don’t have to wonder if I should respond the way God did to Job or the way He did to Gomer.)
This is not because I “just have a prophetic gift” for those of you who might think that way. I truly believe it is because God has, over time, begun to carve out spaces for different jewels of His personality/character that are now “naturally” manifesting in a variety of circumstances. But one of the biggest deterrents to letting God do this is a narrowed definition of self (or of God), as though you are to be something less than God’s character, as though you can get through life only manifesting parts of His resplendent glory. If you want to be a minister of God then you have to permit yourself to express any part of Him, which means you have to experientially know all parts of Him. So, my exhortation to us all is to believe that the Scriptures exhortation is true that we can be like God. Fling off that limitation that you only think or feel or behave in certain ways and sign up to think, feel, and behave like God! Sign up to have Him turn your world upside down with the wonder of what is actually possible of who He really is and who you can be. And at the same time, sign up for a process that takes years and is hard. You can do it with a solid yes and by the power of the Holy Spirit. Oh what a wonder, let’s be imitators of God!