“To be yourself in a world that is trying to make you
something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
This is one of my favorite quotes, and if you’ve ever received an email from me, you’ve probably seen it in my signature! When I first read this quote as a sixteen year old in English class, I knew it would stay with me.  A decade later, I reference it daily as a reminder to always stay true to myself and what I believe in. As a teenager who was often maligned for being “different” I found some hope in that just by being myself I was achieving something great and maybe I could help make the world a better place. That calling to accept difference and finding hope in what makes one unique is part of what drew me to Christianity in the first place as a college student. I loved how Jesus called the twelve disciples who were all unique in their own way to follow, learn, and help transform their own world. I felt drawn to the Gospel because I saw the uniqueness and diversity in it, and believed that just by being their authentic selves and speaking their truth, the disciples were able to multiply.

I often say that the best thing I can do for my own ministry in transforming this world is to just be myself. When I worked at the University of Evansville, my students would often ask how I got to be comfortable in who I am as a person. I said that this is how God created me so I’m going to do live as honestly as I can, even if it makes me odd or different. More importantly, I’ve learned over the years that to affirm myself means to affirm those different from me, because they are transforming the world too. It is my hope that by embracing myself as I am, and embracing as others as they are, then that is just one of many diverse demonstrations of God’s grace and love.

This Advent season, I would invite us all to do two things. First, I would invite you to ponder on what makes you unique and how that can help transform this world for the glory of God. Even in the face of adversity, who are you authentically and how can that help make disciples for the transformation of the world?  Second, I would ask that you thank those in your life who have embraced you as your authentic self. We cannot do this work alone so I think it is important to thank your family, friends, and those around you who lift you up. I believe that if we can do this, we can then transform the world starting in the Christ-Centered, Community-Connected, and Missionally-Centric Central District.

Greg O’Connor
Conference Assistant to the Central District