Be Not Who You Think You Should Be, But Who You Are
“Let your life be your message.” — Mahatma Gandhi
This quote from Gandhi is rich, especially in a time when we are confronted with many pressures to conform to a certain look, lifestyle, and conflicting values.
Go into any bookstore and you will likely be greeted with books that tell you what you should eat, how you should look, and how you can be real and authentic. There are cookbooks, self-help books, make over books, and just as many magazines that promise a newly transformed you.
Gandhi’s message is to be not who you think you should be, but who you are.
The Orthodox Church will celebrate a very important feast in her liturgical life on August 6, when we will celebrate the feast of the Transfiguration of Christ. It is the celebration of Christ ascending Mount Tabor with two of His disciples, Peter and James. It is on this mount that He is Transfigured and reveals His glory to Peter and James.
Peter and James are so overwhelmed with seeing Christ transfigured that they, themselves, come to a noetic experience.
They do not want to come down from the mount, but Christ brings them back down with the understanding that their lives will become the message of transformation.
The Greek word for transfiguration is metamorphosis, a change in form or appearance.
We struggle with our metamorphosis trying to be something other than who we are. We fill ourselves with worry, anxiety, and fear that we will not be accepted. We search and go through metamorphosis that do not allow our lives to be our message, but much like actors on a stage we hide behind the mask of self-denial.
And, although our metamorphosis is an opportunity to change back into the image and likeness that we were created in, and to have our lives reflect the message that we are loved, we continually go back to the cocoon searching for perfection.
How long will we allow ourselves to enter back into the cocoon only to make our metamorphosis a temporary change?
How many times do we allow ourselves to be influenced not with the voice that calls us to our authentic self, but to the photoshopped image we think others will accept?
This feast of the transfiguration of Christ is also a feast of our transfiguration, in which we are stripped of the layers of false identity to have who we are revealed to us.
For me, celebrating the feast of the Transfiguration is liberating. I do not need to enter in the lights of illusion, but the Light of Life. I am called to break through the cocoon of fear, anxiety, and self-denial, and to emerge as the person God created.
This metamorphosis allows me to let my life be my message. That message is that I am first and foremost created in the image and likeness of my God who loves me just as I am.
I do not need to put on a mask or hide behind the curtain of illusion. I let my life be my message of hope, love, and compassion.
Archpriest Peter Baktis is rector of the Mother of God Joy of All Who Sorrow Orthodox Church, on Cherry Hill Road in Montgomery. He is also a retired, highly decorated, chaplain and colonel of the US Army, stationed in Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, and Bosnia, as well as installations in the US, Germany, and South Korea. Father Peter lives, with his wife Jeanne, and his daughter Kristina, in Hopewell.
Mother of God Orthodox Church
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