Well today seems to be a good day to introduce a new series that I’ve been thinking about for Tosin’s Bible Blog. That is, Bible verses that have changed my life, and how they have done so.
I like people to know that I was brought up in a very fervent Christian household. Everything in our house when I was growing up was all about God and Jesus and living in righteousness etc. By the grace of God, I always lived an obedient Christian life. And yet, despite being thoroughly immersed in Christ my entire life, it fills me with unspeakable joy to tell people that God and His word have still completely changed my life from what it was, a good Christian life to an even better Christian life! Loving Christian character is now the next frontier that God and I are working through in my life: goodbye belligerent and argumentative Tosin, hello to a peaceful, gentle and gracious alter ego!
There are so many beautiful Bible passages that I absolutely love, and would love to share with everyone. However this series is exclusively for those Bible verses that have genuinely transformed my life. (Ultimately I know that every single verse in the Bible has power to transform life.) I am so grateful for the work that God has done in my life through His word the Bible. Through this series I hope to show how God can work to change the lives of normal, everyday people! Something else that excites me about all this is that many of these changes are not overtly “religious” and have not worked to make me more “religious”. I hope you will get to see what I mean as I work through the series.
The first passage that I am going to consider in this series is one that I have spoken of many many times before. And yet, I definitely need to acknowledge it here in this series. It is possibly the Bible verse that has made the single biggest change in my life.
v26. Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
27. So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
This is something about these Bible verses that have transformed my life. Often I will have been aware of the verse or Bible passage already. Sometimes I will have been able to quote it off by heart. But then, the truth of the verse will strike me in a new way, my eyes will be opened, and my life will be moved to a new dimension!
OK so I was in the final year of my undergraduate degree, and I was thinking of a few dreams for the academic year that lay ahead. But then I thought to myself: Who am I to aspire after those things?! After all, I am only….
I am so embarrassed to admit this now, but I used to have very low self-esteem. I used to think that I was inherently inferior to other people, and inherently incapable of achieving anything truly excellent (although this was at Cambridge University!) To be honest, being Black was a big part of this. However, there were other aspects too which made me feel inferior to everyone, including other Black people.
So I was just sitting there, thinking about this. And then, this verse just came to my mind: “So God created man in His own image.” And then I got thinking about what this meant. My goodness, I, Oluwatosin Ojumu, am made in the image of God! As I say, I was already aware of this verse. I’ve always known that being made in the image of God is what gives humans our primary worth as human beings. And yet, as great as that was, for the first time I saw more in it than even that. I Oluwatosin Ojumu am made in the image of God Himself! That is my primary identity that transcends my background, my financial status, my gender – anything whatsoever! My potential is not defined by my ethnicity, whatever other people might think of my ethnicity, even whatever I might think of my ethnicity, but rather by the fact that I am made in the image of God! Being made in the image of God is greater than any other identity that anyone could refer to. For instance, if someone was born a queen, but not made in the image of God, being made in the image of God would be greater than that. Moreover, little Tosin is made in the image of exactly the same God as absolutely anyone else who has ever lived (with the exception of Jesus who actually IS God, of course!) That means that I have the same inherent value as anyone you can name in history (except Jesus)! I am inherently as worthy of aspiring after excellence, even after greatness, as anyone else who has ever lived.
Furthermore, as if all that was not enough, the following also occurred to me. I was not made in the image of Elijah who was made in the image of God. (Elijah was an Old Testament prophet who performed many powerful miracles.) I was not made in the image of Billy Graham who was made in the image of God. (Billy Graham is the famous 20th century preacher who has preached to thousands, possibly millions of people around the world, and is personally known to Queen Elizabeth II and many US presidents.) Rather I am made DIRECTLY in the image of God Himself. Therefore my potential in life does not have to be limited by whatever these people achieved, as great as they are and were. I do not have to aspire to achieve what Elijah achieved in his prayer life. Rather I can aspire to go as far as God will take me. Perhaps I will not get anywhere as far as they have done. However, I do not have to recognise their achievements as a limit on my own life. My point in all this is that I do not have to aspire merely to be a copy of any of these people.
Oh my goodness. Wow. And wow. And wow. And wow. My goodness. My goodness. My goodness. It was then that I realised that striving after excellence is actually a right that I can demand of myself. I am as fully human as anyone else. I have the same right to demand excellence of myself as anyone else. I have the same right as anyone else to present myself as someone from whom others can systematically expect excellence.
That was over a decade ago. Now it is my resounding joy to tell you that what the name “Tosin Ojumu” stands for has changed! Prior to all this my name used to be synonymous with mediocrity, and “should have tried harder”. (Despite this I was always quite able at school, largely due to being a huge reader in childhood, and having very ambitious parents!) Now I hope it is fair to say that my name is synonymous if not with excellence outright, then certainly with an incredible work ethic, with making an effort, with giving one thousand percent.
As I go around living my life, I go out of my way to make it clear that while yes, I do aspire to be the best I can be, I am still so human, still so imperfect, and there is nothing to be scared of in me. Despite that however, some people still apparently insist on being intimidated by me. I imagine that that is only because these same people had assumed that they were born to excel over me.
This should not make me happy, of course, and I know that this is immensely immature, but frankly it does make me happy, as I remember all those years that I considered myself a small person. I laugh within myself and I think: “Ha ha ha – payback!!!”
(As I say, character is something that God and I are already working on. Clearly Christian maturity also needs work in my life. Perhaps we’ll also add “overhonesty” to the list!) Unfortunately, this often extends to guys who might otherwise have been romantically viable for me, and this definitely does not make me happy!
As my slightly guilty response to this immaturity in myself I do try my hardest to share this knowledge and thinking with other people, so that they too might get excited about the fact that they are made in the image of God! After all, we are all made in the image of exactly the same God. Yes?!
In fact, I’ve gone to the extent of writing a whole ebook about this subject: Available here
And yet, will anyone listen?! No apparently they prefer to continue sitting there, being intimidated by me, sometimes even to the point of spreading lies about me, in the hope of bringing me down, instead of embracing their own potential for excellence.
If there is any cute single guy out there reading this, I hope that he at least will listen, because to be perfectly candid I would really love to have a husband whose approach to life is like mine – and who is also not scared of me!
But honestly people, please grab this passage for yourself. Go and sit in it if you need to. Read it over and over and over until the truth of it strikes your heart as it did mine. I hope it will be as true for you as it has been for me that this one passage will be enough to change your life!
Beyond this particular passage, I cannot emphasise it strongly enough that if self-esteem is what you are looking for, it is available for you within the pages of the Bible like nowhere else! There are so many Bible verses that confer phenomenal dignity to us all as human beings, and especially children of God, that is, those of us who have surrendered our lives to Christ. I hope to share some more of these verses with you in this series.
(And people honestly expect me to let go of this faith?! As one of my sisters once said, “They cannot be profanity serious!” That is, she actually enunciated the word “profanity” as part of the statement, which I found, and continue to find, quite humorous!)
26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all[a] the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
Photo of mountain from Pixabay