Met an old friend recently. As we caught up he said something that he had mentioned before — that he was too intense and that he needed to change. He said even friends and family teased him about the fact that his face had a perpetual frown. In his fifties now he has struggled with this most of his adult life. I am not sure if I was led by the Spirit, but I said, “please don’t try to be less intense.” “This is who you are.” I suggested that after all these years it was time to stop fighting how God had made him. It was time to accept himself and be at home with who he was.

I suggested that God is a God of variety and He has made us all different for a purpose. Because we are different we have different strengths to contribute to our fellow brothers and sisters. I said that every personality has strengths and weaknesses. Instead of trying to be who he was not, he should, by God’s help and the help of friends and mentors, be a better him. He should grow in awareness of his strengths and weaknesses, seek to grow in his unique strengths, and seek to let God deal with his weaknesses as he grew in Christlikeness. We understood that sanctification is a journey.

Paul tells us that we should accept one another as Christ has accepted us (Romans 15:7). I know I am stretching it exegetically, but could we also extrapolate this to include accepting ourselves. We can accept ourselves because Jesus, on the basis of the Cross, has accepted us. I am not saying that we should accept sin. We are called to put to death sin in our life. But our personalities, our strengths/weaknesses, our burdens, and our histories, help define who we are, and we need to be at peace with them; at peace with who we are.

Paul also calls us to think of ourselves with sober judgement (Romans 12:3), that is, to have accurate self-knowledge. This is not an exercise in narcissism. As James Martin writes:

In their lives and in their writings, both (Thomas) Merton and (Henri) Nouwen sought to be themselves before God. This was perhaps their most basic quest, and this is where they are excellent examples for contemporary Christians. Because for Merton and Nouwen, the lifelong process of self-examination and self-criticism and self-revelation had a point; it was not simply a narcissistic quest for self knowledge. Rather, it was a discipline undertaken to allow them to become more loving and more centered on God. For both men, the long process of self-understanding enabled them to grow in freedom and to become more authentically themselves. (Becoming Who You Are [Boston, MA: HiddenSpring, 2005], 57.)

My friend seemed to find some comfort in my suggestion. I know personally this is not an easy journey. For a very long time, I struggled with the fact that my life was not “normal.”(I struggled with widowhood, divorce, and clinical depression among other things.) I found it so hard to embrace my history. Through the grace of God and the help of friends I began to be at peace with my life. God’s gift of Bernice to be my wife helped big time. I began to realise that there really was no such thing as a “normal” life. There was just my life and I needed, by God’s help, to live that life to the full.

So as we begin our journey into 2017, I wish for you a growing self-knowledge. By the grace of God, accept yourself. By the power of God, be a better you. As for myself, I do “want to become more loving and more centered on God.” I want to grow in my ability to offer my true self in the mission to love God and to love neighbour. And I need to do it as Soo Inn.