May 4, 2020
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As you may recall from a high school biology class, you have forty-six chromosomes. Twenty-three are from your father, and twenty-three are from your mother. And it’s that unique combination of chromosomes that determines everything from the color of your eyes to the number of hairs on your head. Your identity is part heredity. And so it is with the image of God. The image of God is both your heredity and your destiny.
The mathematical probability that you would get the exact twenty-three chromosomes you got from your mother is .5 to the twenty-third power. That’s 1 in 10 million. But the same is true for the twenty-three chromosomes you got from your father. So if you multiply those two together, the probability that you would be you is 1 in 100 trillion. But you also have to factor in that your parents’ chromosomal history had the same probability, and their parents, and their parents’ parents. My point? You are incalculably unique.
All of us start out as one-of-a-kind originals, but too many of us end up as carbon copies of someone else. Instead of celebrating our uniqueness, and the uniqueness of others, we’re too often threatened by it. We forfeit our uniqueness because we want to fit in. Instead of daring to be different, we sacrifice our soulprints on the altar of conformity.
In one of his best-known essays, “Self-Reliance,” Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that…imitation is suicide. He must take himself for better, for worse.” I think that is precisely what David did as he prepared to duel Goliath:
Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them. (1 Samuel 17:38-39)
Arming a warrior for battle was a major ritual in David’s day. Armor was an extension of the warrior’s character. David could have gone into battle dressed like a king. But David said, “I cannot go in these, because I am not used to them.” So he took them off.
What if David had gone out to meet Goliath on Goliath’s terms—fully armored, fully armed? I think David would have lost because David wasn’t a swordsman. In fact, he probably had never touched a sword in his life. For better or for worse, David was a shepherd. The sword would have posed a greater threat to David, via self-inflicted wounds, than it did to Goliath. But David was deadly with a slingshot.
David came to a crossroads. He had a choice to make. And it was a choice that would determine his destiny. He could go into battle as Saul—wear Saul’s armor, wield Saul’s sword, hold Saul’s shield. Or he could go into battle as himself—a shepherd with a slingshot. David decided not to don Saul’s armor or brandish Saul’s sword for one very good reason: he wasn’t Saul. David decided to be David. And we’re faced with the same decision. There comes a point in all of our lives where we need the courage to take off Saul’s armor. And it’s the rarest form of courage. It’s the courage to be yourself.
Mark Batterson serves as lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC. NCC also owns and operates Ebenezers Coffeehouse, The Miracle Theatre, and the DC Dream Center. Mark holds a doctor of ministry degree from Regent University and is the New York Times bestselling author of 17 books, including The Circle Maker, Chase the Lion, and Whisper. Mark and his wife, Lora, have three children and live on Capitol Hill.