What We All Have in Common

Donald Miller explains why none of us "can be the person God designed us to be."

I’ve heard this little phrase in Christian circles that says “you can be the person God designed you to be.” The implications of the phrase are:

  1. You are not the person God designed you to be, and

  2. The speaker or writer has some sort of formula that is going to help you become who God intended for you to be.

Now to be sure, every time I’ve heard this the intentions have been terrific. It’s always the nicest (and for that matter, most God-fearing God-loving people) people who say these things. If the world were more populated with people like them than people like me the world would be a better place, for sure. God knows they mean well, and they mean well for God and for you.

That said, I take issue with the phrase. I don’t believe you and I are going to be the people God intended for us to be until we get to heaven, until we are reunited with the Trinity. Until then, we are the people God never wanted us to be, that is people who are separated from Him. We have access to Him through Christ, but we won’t be with Him, as it were, until the wedding feast of the lamb, so until then, we are incomplete and that’s the most obvious truth in the world, all you have to do is watch the news, or have a video camera follow you around for an hour.

If you want a good picture of what life would be like if we were the person God created us to be, you just have to look at the book of Genesis. Moses repeats one descriptive phrase over and over, that before the fall, people walked around naked and weren’t ashamed. He really doesn’t explain much else. He just keeps going on about how when people were with God, they could walk around naked. It actually makes you start wondering if Uncle Moses (or, as I like to call him, “Uncle Mosie”) was some sort of pervert.

But if you think about it, it’s quite a meaningful way of saying that, in the presence of God, we are hardly self-aware. That is, we can walk around completely naked and feel no shame. That’s very hard to believe, you know, because every time I’m naked I am acutely aware of the fact I am naked. Honestly, it never slips my mind. I never find myself at the grocery store, catching a chill in the frozen food section when I suddenly realize I’m in my birthday suit.

What Moses is saying is that we were designed to live in the presence of God, and in His presence, and His presence alone, self-awareness fades away, and we are made complete in an exchange of love we can’t possibly imagine. Moses, then, summed it up pretty well: They were naked and felt no shame.

And so when we hear we can be the people God designed us to be by obeying a formula, we are being sold snake oil. If you were the person God designed you to be, you’d walk around naked and not know it. In other words, if you were the person God designed you to be, you’d be in an insane asylum singing Third Day songs only wearing a keytar.

It sounds like a slight thing to  contend with, but believing you can become some sort of actualized human being before the wedding feast of the Lamb has negative emotional consequences. If you actually believe that, you aren’t going to be happy because you’ll spend your life believing you are missing out on some kind of life that isn’t accessible till you are reunited with God. No formula is going to reverse the affects of the fall of humanity. You don’t have that kind of power, and neither does a formula. God will bring you to Him when He chooses, and at that point you will be the person He designed you to be, namely, you’ll be with Him, which is what He designed you for.

Instead, Paul repeats over and over that what we have in Christ is hope. Hope. He says he counts all things rubbish compared to the hope that awaits us in Christ. And he says the hope we have in Christ will not disappoint.

And there’s nothing depressing about that at all. Ever meet a girl who just got engaged? She’s happy. She’s not happy because she’s married, she’s happy because she knows she’s going to get married. She has hope.

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What this means for me is that I can learn about God, I can pray to God, I can long for God, I can cry out to God, I can allow God’s principles to guide me in this vapor of a short life, I can enjoy my suffering as a point of reference for His eventual deliverance, but in terms of being an actualized human being, all I’ve got going for me is Christ. I’ve got nothing else. And Christ will reunite me with the Father, and at that point, I will be the person God designed me to be. I’ve got no hope in myself at all, and no hope in formulas. I’ve got all my hope in Christ.

So next time you’re reading a religious book and the author says you can be the person God designed you to be, flip to the back cover and look at the author picture. If said author is wearing clothes, put the book back on the shelf. It’s like my Uncle Mosie told us: Never trust a fella wearing clothes.

Donald Miller is a speaker and author of books such as Blue Like Jazz and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. This article originally appeared on his blog.



Danieljmoen commented…

Since God has planned for us to take on the image of his son (romans 8:29), wouldn't "becoming the person God created you to be" simply mean becoming more like Christ? I don't think that's a bad goal to shoot for in life. But agreed....we'll never fully realize that until we leave this earth. Then the pants come off and the party starts!


pseudopunker commented…

I don't think Mr. Miller's point is to justify our shortcomings. I think it's a call to continue to stoke a relationship with Christ without being wracked with guilt when we do fall short. This is something that I see happening in young adults and youth today. They are so wracked with guilt over not being perfect that they give up. Instead they should realize that they are free, and in that freedom comes the possibility of failure. But Christ offers redemption for every failure. We should begin to focus less on "striving" towards perfection and instead spend that energy getting to know Christ in a more personal way, reading His word and communicating through prayer and worship. As we got to know Him better, we begin to naturally be like Him. Trying to be perfect only leads to disappointment in both ourselves and our Creator.


Fleabus commented…

I have learned that the people who "mean well" usually create the most havoc in their wake.



Aura commented…

I agree and disagree with this article.
Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Donald Miller, and always find reading his stuff really insightful.

What I do agree with is that there is NO formula for you to "become the person who God created you to be"

but..... I disagree in where he says that we Can't be the person who He designed us to be, because, as Philippians 1:6 states, he has BEGUN the work in us already, but (as Miller states) it wont be fully completed until the day of His coming.

"And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns." (Philippians 1:6)

So if He has already begun the good work within us... wouldn't that "good work" be in order to create in us who He wants us to be? kinda contradictory to what the article states, eh?

I firmly believe that through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we are capable of being who God created us to be.. not in our own strengths, but in Him, who lives in us.

In my humble opinion, we come to be the person who he wants us to be when we come to Christ, and when we become a part of His family, because when Christ comes and lives in us.. our old human nature is discarded, and we are made into new creatures.

As far as Miller's conclusion that we are not being who we were meant to be because we cant "walk around naked" in his presence... There was a change of plan. Originally that was the plan, the plan was for us to live in his presence.. for us to walk around naked, and delight in Him.. but then Adam and Eve came along, and sinned against God & because of God's righteous, just, and holy character, there were consequences for their sin. Hence... the plan of salvation, in which we as humans have the right to choose what we want to do with our lives- if we want to live in Christ or reject the greatest gift ever given to humanity... and when we DO choose to live for Christ, we are well on our way in becoming who God desires us to be.
Simply because we cant walk around naked in His presence, does not mean we can't be who He wants us to be.

Living a life modeled after Christ, is in fact what God expects from us..
and to top of this LOOOOOOONNNNNGGG comment....
remember what the word says in 1 John 3:9:

"No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because Gods seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God."

-Aura B.


Chelsea Fenwick commented…

Jesus died naked....so technically he wasn't wearing clothes, which technically makes him trustworthy.

Whether or not I agree with you, I thank you, Donald, for contributing your ideas. It's fun to wrestle.

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