All this week we’re focusing on the preparations made to leave home and head off to university. We’re delighted to continue our guest mini-series of articles from Katie Macintyre – a youth and student worker in Manchester. Enjoy the read and get sharing…

Katie… If you invited all of your friends to your birthday party, would they recognise you? Would your friends from church recognise you by the way you talked, or your housemates in halls by the way you behaved, or the rest of the cast from the play you’re in?

It was a question that put absolute fear in me. I had previously thought that my ability to adapt to any environment or friendship group was just a hallmark of the extroverted-people-person that I am. Reflecting on my teenage years I realised I spent a lot of time learning about how to slot into groups. I worked hard at finding friends. I worked hard at reading the room and trying to be funny – finding out what sense of humour someone had and then working hard to produce jokes that would make them laugh.

Add into the mix that I found a real passion for drama and acting; I loved pretending to be other people. I loved putting on the accents, the costume, the mannerisms and facial expressions. In fact, my mum would often comment on the severity of ‘post-show blues’ that I experienced; grieving over the person I didn’t get to play anymore, grieving about losing that niche friendship group I’d slotted into, being disappointed I had to go back to just being Katie.

But I didn’t grow up around people pleasers. My dad is the most authentic Jesus-lover I know. He literally wore a “Jesus Loves You” T-Shirt everywhere for most of my teenage years. He was unfazed by comments, laughs or people making fun of him. He was simply wearing what he lived.

I did anything but that. I was desperately trying to walk that balance between genuinely loving God and still being ‘normal’ or ‘cool’. I loved it when people were surprised I was a Christian.

I did anything but that. I was desperately trying to walk that balance between genuinely loving God and still being ‘normal’ or ‘cool’. I loved it when people were surprised I was a Christian.

“But you’re so normal”. Yes. What a compliment, I’d think. They don’t think I’m crazy or a bible basher or a loser. Yet in trying to fit in with the world I was actually compromising the values I wanted to live by. In fact I was compromising who I was made to be. 

But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.1 Peter 2:9

As a follower of Jesus, I am called to be holy. I am called to praise God for his kindness and grace  to me and the profound impact it has had on my life. As an adult, I hate the idea that someone wouldn’t see the mark of Jesus on my life, that my worship and adoration for the One who made me and redeemed me wouldn’t flow out into everything I do. 

So, in the first year of Uni, as I had continued to ‘adapt’ and split my identity across friendship groups, this question brought me to a stop.

What would I do if everyone from my life that I loved and cared about was invited to see me in one space. Would my behaviour, the words I spoke, the way I spoke shock anyone?

Did I care more about whether my friends thought I was ‘fun’ or whether my friends knew me as ‘myself’? 

This generation is desperate for people to be themselves. And we are cheating the world of all God wants to do when we please people before pleasing God. There is no one like you. No one who worships God the way you do. No one who loves God the way you love God and He is desperate for more of you.

This generation is desperate for people to be themselves. And we are cheating the world of all God wants to do when we please people before pleasing God.

At that point, I didn’t know whether I knew how to be myself. I was worried I’d fall into pretending to be who I should be, rather than who I am. 

You are never more yourself than when you’re at home. Sometimes that looks like our best bits and other times it looks like our worst. But at home, we let down our guards and relax into being ourselvesn. This became my prayer. That I would make myself at home in God’s love and that as I’d do that he’d teach me how to relax into being me, so Eugene Peterson’s translation of John 15:9-10 became my prayer.

I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me, make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love. That’s what I’ve done – kept my Father’s commands and made myself at home in his love. John 15:9-10 (MSG)

So as I laid down the people I had become, as I removed people from the throne of my life and put God back where He should be, my social anxiety fled, my behaviours changed I found myself at home in the presence of God. Each time I’d ‘make myself at home in Him’, pursued Him and praised Him I’d learn more about myself, and in His kindness He showed me more: more of Him, more of me and more of what He has for my life.

Those that know me now and don’t share my faith, don’t think I’m weird (or maybe they do), but they love me anyway and, more importantly, I don’t need their love to know who I am. I need His.

For more content to help guide you along the journey, order a FREE copy of publication CAMPUS and check out our 6-part CAMPUS Podcast series. Also, follow our socials for regular content and spread the word!