You don’t have to be who you once were

I recently heard this phrase, but I can’t remember where, or who said it. I think it was in relation to something in the African American Community, but I’m not sure.

This phrase has caught my attention for a few reasons.

First, I love the phrase. It’s a freeing phrase. It frees people from having to recreate the past. It frees us from expectations and habits too. It frees us from our ourselves too – what we were.

Second, it’s a hopeful and hope filled phrase. It is oriented towards the future and what we are becoming, not what we were. It also allows us to be in the present and make some decisions about where we are going.

Third, it isn’t just for individuals. The phrase is true for people as well as churches, institutions, companies, governments, nations, etc. That’s a beautiful thing.

Fourth, it means others don’t get to label you. I’ve written about this in the past. If you can label someone, you can control them, the expectations around them, and what to think about them and what they think about themselves.

When I think about this phrase in relation to the church, it is such a great phrase. It is the counter to “We’ve always done it this way.” When we adopt and actually believe that the we don’t have to be who we were, it means we also honor the people that are the church today – the gathered Body of Christ – and what that community is called to, right now.

If we are free from having to re-create the past, and instead only learn from it, then the possibilities of what we become are immense. There is so much opportunity. People are begging to find a church that has meaning and purpose – not of what was, but of what is and what will be. They may not phrase it that way, but if a church can really live into the present and where it is called, then people will want to be a part of that church. We live in an age in which people want to people part of things that impact people’s lives, including their own.

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