Quite often over the years I've thought and re-thought about who I am, and have often come to new conclusions about who I am. When I say "who I am," I'm not talking about my solid, unchanging spiritual identity as a child of God. I'm talking about who I am in relation to my desires, personality and other things about me that change and evolve over the course of my lifetime. I'm talking about my soul (mind, will and emotions).
I once thought I was a certain 'type' of person, and those things about me would never change. There are indeed things about the way that I'm wired that aren't likely to change. But the truth is that there are many things about my mind, will and emotions that are ever-changing, or that at least have changed and will continue to change over the course of time. My desires change. My hopes and dreams change. My interests change.
And what I'm leading up to, at least in this post, is that my "part" in the body of Christ changes. That is, the way I function within the body doesn't always stay the same. My gifts change and evolve. My callings change. Don't get me wrong - sometimes those things stay the same for a very long time, and perhaps even throughout my entire lifetime. But if I find my dreams and desires changing over time, it's nothing to be worried about, and in fact can be a really good thing. Sometimes when I've noticed that my mindsets and desires have changed, I've thought I must not have heard God correctly at one point or another, and so I've unnecessarily struggled to try to figure out why I don't feel called to do the things I once felt called to do. But it may not be the case at all that I've missed God's heart. It may simply be that it's time to move on to something else!
Some examples of how I've changed: I used to think "church" (the activities involved in the gathering of the saints) had to be done a certain way. I now actually very much dislike church when it's done the way I used to think it had to be done! And yet there are some who really like it that way. It's ok that we have different tastes and different ways of doing things.
At the same time, in other areas of body life, I also used to have huge questions about how certain things were supposed to be done. I remember reading in the book of Acts about how the early church "had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need." I wondered if that was how true, genuine Christian community was "supposed" to be. I remember reading about how another group in Acts "received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily," and I was taught that this means that it's vital that Christians read the Bible every day.
As my thinking has evolved, I've stopped wondering about those things as I've realized that there is not much of a chance that I'll ever live in a Christian community in which everyone sells all their possessions and has everything in common. I've also stopped reading my Bible daily. In fact I've come to highly doubt that those early Christians remained that way throughout the rest of their lives (sharing all their possessions and 'searching the scriptures' daily). They were real people who didn't remain the same all life long. I do love sharing with others and I love reading the Bible, but I've realized that those early church stories are not "models" for how the Christian life is meant to be. It's simply what those people did during those particular times for whatever reasons they had to do things those ways.
I used to think "pastor" was a lifetime position or calling. I had thought, innocently enough, that anyone who was called to be a pastor had that calling all life long. Then one time I heard someone say the exact opposite. He said a person might be called as a pastor for a period or season, and then that might change as he or she is called into some other function within the body of Christ. That thought revolutionized my way of seeing things.
I once did a lot of comparing of myself to various Bible characters. For example, I would look at certain things about the Apostle Paul and I would say, "I'm like Paul." (Or I would even sometimes think that I should be more like Paul). Or I would notice certain characteristics about Peter and say, "I really relate to Peter." I would do the same with David, Abraham, Joseph, Moses and various others. The truth is, as I've read about these people, at times I've truly related to various aspects of their lives... and at other times I've realized that I'm nothing like them. And here's the thing. Even they changed. They, too, were all real people and they changed over the course of their lives.
At times in life I've also found myself doing a lot of comparing of myself with other people who I know - friends, family, mentors, pastors, teachers, etc. But in the same way, I realized that in some ways I can relate to aspects of their lives and in other ways I can't. And also in the same way, I've seen that they've changed over the course of life, and so have I. And even more important: They're them. I'm me.
There's no need to compare myself with others (although I can certainly be influenced by others). And I don't have to remain the same all my life long. I'm not going to remain the same all my life long! I'm not meant to. Again, some things about me will never change. But many of my thoughts, hopes, mindsets, desires, emotions, callings, positions, etc, will change over the course of my lifetime. That's a really good thing! That's life.