In 21st century America, we as Christians want to customize what our walk with Jesus looks like. With user-friendly technology at the tip of our fingers we change the filters on our photos, change our layouts to what’s trending, and even attempt to create a relationship with Jesus that fits our aesthetic. I once heard someone vulnerably say, “I feel like I can relate to Jesus more when I picture him looking like me.” How do we follow the call of bowing to the lordship of Christ if we are primed to do, and be, whatever feels right to us?
This past June, I spent two months living in Thailand interning with various missionaries in Bangkok and the southern city of Hat Yai. It was summer, rainy season was kicking up, and even though the long sleeves and longs skirts stuck to my skin like glue, my heart was eager for the experiences God was ready to show me. While I could talk about all the times I laughed and happily ate Tom Yum with my Thai friends, the culture shock I experienced drastically shifted my view of what following God looks like. Eventually I hit a point where I no longer felt happy or eager to take part in God’s mission. Suddenly, I was in a place where my walk with God did not reflect my inner-most desires. The filter was blurry and the layout wasn’t one I could easily navigate. It was the first time my individualism was at odds with my faith and I had to decide whether or not I was going to submit my desires to the authority of Christ.
Sometimes we become so afraid of suffering that we would rather have a false walk with a god that matches our preferences than an authentic walk with THE God who pushes us to be uncomfortable.
If anyone knew the weight of doing something they did not feel excited to do, it was Jesus. Jesus, who in the midst of suffering said, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42 NIV). What follows is even more important because it says that an angel from heaven then appeared to Jesus and strengthened him.
When our circumstances do not line up with our desires but we submit our lives to God’s plans, He strengthens us. It is in moments of humility when we acknowledge that we do not know what is best for ourselves that God then weaves together a life more colorful than any filter we could conjure up. This is not to say our obedience will create a life without obstacles. There will be bugs and user errors, but these serve as reminders that we will always need the strength of God in our lives.
It is in moments of humility when we acknowledge that we do not know what is best for ourselves that God then weaves together a life more colorful than any filter we could conjure up.
Like Jesus, we need to submit our own desires to those of the author of our lives. A common definition for the word autonomy is “free,” but do we truly know the meaning of free if we are self-governing ourselves away from the one who ensured our freedom? To make an idol out of autonomy means to leave no room for the workings of our creator. But, we were never meant to be the sole proprietors of our lives because we are a fallen people.
Whenever I feel unhappy about the way life’s circumstances are looking, I remind myself that I am only looking at one brushstroke on the canvas. There are countless changes that God has in store and his ways are not bound by the shifting of trends; He is timeless. We should find comfort in submitting our desires and individualism to the one who truly gives us identity. However, if we must customize our desires, let us customize them to reflect those of Christ who is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8 NIV).