Myself when I am real. Today is a big day for me. It marks the first day of the rest of my life. Technically, so has every other day, but this is a special morning. I’m back from Europe and the normal, everyday life I left behind for two weeks is once again my reality. Today marks the transition from one season of growth and rebirth, to the next. Today is the day I begin to find out who I am in the context of the “real world”, only now I am real, too.

Coming off the retreat high. For those of you that have ever been to a church or youth group retreat, summer camp, etc., you know this feeling. Everything in life feels different and you’re ready to be the new, improved you that the world outside of the microcosm of that shared experience has seen. Only, two weeks later you find yourself worn back to the old you by the stresses and burdens of life. You’re on fire, but the world quickly extinguishes you as if afraid you’ll catch all of it with your flame.

Leaving the old behind. As a believer in Jesus Christ, I know that I have been made a new creation, but allow me to clarify this oft quoted, little understood cliche. I do not leave behind who I was and have been. No, I carry those scars along with me to remind me from where God has taken me and the growth for which He’s graciously allowed along the way. However, the newness of my creation comes from the fact that while those scars help with recognition, they do not define me any longer. What defines me, the only thing that defines me, is my hope through faith and love in Christ.

Building an altar. Oftentimes, especially in the Old Testament (less famous with us postmoderns), when people wanted to remember God, or when God wanted them to remember Him, an altar would be built. Whether I like it or not, an altar is being built today. I finally get the chance to weather the rest of the storm created by my DUI arrest that took place a couple months ago. It is a day I shall not soon forget, but not because of the imminent storm. No, I will remember this day because of the grace that God has shown me in the last two weeks and the grace I will be shown not long from now. Without going too deep, God’s grace will be manifested in giving me whatever punishment I need and nothing else. This, yes, this is grace.

Cautious steps. If for a moment I come off as unafraid, you have read me wrong, my friend. I am scared. Very. However, I know that my fear is only an exaggeration of a dirty lie. God is good, I said that last week. But, God is also sovereign and always has been. But, God is good in His sovereignty which is the connection sometimes I have a hard time making. God has been watching over this process since before I saw it happening and all the while He’s been providing. Timid, I am, but confident that when I step into that courtroom, nothing that He hasn’t planned for my good and His will befall me.

All too easily the real world gets us down. We have experiences that change us, but they don’t stick when we return to the familiar drudgery of the everyday. The mundane acid washes our faith, erasing all signs of the recent growth so only the old, complacent remains. However, this is the first sign of death. This is the early warning that the life we claimed to have gained or regained is hanging off our bones. For this, we have to fight. Not with fists, because satan is too strong for that. Instead, we fight with the Word, prayer and community. We fight with every weapon God has given us, including Himself. And in that day, we build an altar to remind ourselves of God’s love and goodness. We remember the darkness from whence we were delivered. Finally, we take the cautious but deliberate steps into the future unknown, armed with this empowering knowledge. Ask yourself, who am I when I am real?