This week my classes all started. To be honest, I thought this semester’s workload wouldn’t be too rough, but I was wrong. The way it’s looking from the first week I’m going to have a big time commitment to my studies. Even though I know it’s going to be a lot, I also know that I’m going to have the opportunity to learn many new things this semester. One thing I especially hope I learn is how to live each day with a willingness to have joy and not let the stress of work get to me. Yesterday was my first day to go to my “Art and Human Values” class, and my professor said something that I felt I needed to share. He told us this class would teach us that “we cannot let people shape who we are”. I don’t know about you all, but there are many times when I let people shape who I am. There are also times that I allow my situation to shape who I am. Instead of being who God made me to be, I allow the world to dictate what I do and how I live my life.

Throughout my life, I have gotten into a bad habit of becoming what I’m surrounded by. If I’m surrounded by a stressful situation, I’m most likely going to be stressed. If the people around me think Taylor Swift is not good at what she does, I may act as if I’m not a huge fan… even though I am. If I feel that people don’t like me for who I am, I’m most likely going to put my guard up and feel lonely. As you can see through all of these examples, the situations and people clearly define who I am. All of these examples also show the world breaking me down, taking one piece of me at a time.

The previous student intern at my church demonstrated well how this process works. She used this demonstration strictly for relationships, so I’m going to change it up a little bit to fit what I’m trying to display. First of all, you take a full piece of paper. Then, let’s say you’ve been in a situation for a while where you’ve allowed your friends to dictate your actions. Because you’ve let part of you be taken away, you need to rip off part of the paper since that’s a part of you that is now gone. Now, let’s say you’ve been really stressed with work and have let that change your persona. You’re not happy anymore and always take all that you’re feeling out on the people you love most. It’s time to rip another piece of the paper away because you lost that joy that people have always loved within you. Let’s say you’re in a terrible relationship and keep telling yourself that you can’t get out. You let the hurtful words of that friendship or romantic relationship tear you apart. Those hurtful words feed lies into who you are, so you put your guard up. Tear off another piece of that paper. Lastly, let’s say you have started a new chapter and you feel completely alone and as if you don’t have any friends. Instead of seeking those good relationships where you can be yourself, you hide who you are in fear that they won’t like the real you. Tear off another piece. You are that paper. At one time, you were full, but now you are ripped into pieces. However, don’t worry. There is a solution to this problem. You can tape the paper back together. And God can tape your life back together. God can help you get back the person God made you to be. Of course, there will still be scars, but we all have to learn to look at those scars and know we made progress. I encourage you all to do this activity and write the things that have taken away from who you are as a person. Dig deep and figure out the parts of you that you need God to help you patch up. What situations have defined you for so long? Have they taken away from who you are as a person? What relationships have torn you down? Or is it a lack of relationships that has left you feeling lonely?

This all reminds me of the story of Esther, which is one of my favorites in the Bible!! In summary, Esther was a Jew and grew up with those of Jewish descent. She was raised by a man named Mordecai. In her story, King Ahasuerus puts out a decree for all the young women in her land to be set before him, so he could choose his wife. Esther was loved by the King immediately, so of course, she becomes the new queen. Within this time, a man named Haman was appointed a position of very high stance by the king. The king ordered all servants to pay homage to Haman, but Mordecai (the man who raised Esther) refused. This made Haman very angry, so he decided to go to King Ahasuerus and tell him to order all Jews in the kingdom to be killed since Mordecai was Jewish. The king did what Haman said and ordered the decree. When Mordecai became aware of what was happening, he was greatly distressed. Esther was also greatly devastated because the Jews were her people. Even though this put great danger upon her, Esther decided to tell the king to put an end to this order. In this time, she could have been killed for going into the inner court to talk to the king. It was not allowed of a woman. However, Esther was brave. She didn’t let her situation make her weak. She allowed a bad situation to aid her in displaying her bravery. There are many more details to this story, but I will skip to the end. She exposed the evil within Haman and saved the Jews by telling the king to stop the decree put out to kill them.

Esther was in a very bad situation. She was practically looking death right in the eye, but she didn’t change who she was. She could’ve let her situation turn her into a fearful human being, but instead, she let her bravery shine. I aspire to be like Esther. There are so many times when I just give in and let the world change who I am as a person. The world takes my confidence, my bravery, and the little things that make up who I am. Are you like Esther who stayed who she was even throughout the bad, or have you gotten to a place where the bad around you has changed who you were made to be? It’s okay if you feel that you have let your situation define you, but now is the time to make a change.

Many of us are stepping into new chapters right now, and some chapters of your life will not be easy. But we don’t need to let the difficult times define us. Instead, we need to face each situation that comes at us with bravery. We also need to let go of all the control and give it to God. If you feel like you’ve given up parts of yourself because of people or the situation you’re in, let God put the pieces back together.

You are so much more than where you are or where you have been. Be you because you are amazing.

“Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” – Esther 4:16

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