Be What You Are

You have to be what you are. Whatever you are, you’ve got to be it. —Johnny Cash 

The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. —I Corinthians 12:12–13 NLT 

As body parts go, the human big toe is quite unremarkable: two bones, some muscle, a little skin, and a nail. That’s pretty much it. 

The big toe would certainly seem to pale in comparison to other body parts. It’s not nearly as prominent as the eyes. No description of a person ever includes the color or shape of the big toe. It’s not nearly as complex as the brain. The big toe performs roughly 10,000 trillion fewer calculations per second. It’s not nearly as dramatic as the heart. No one panics when the big toe moves a little faster or a little slower than it normally does. It’s not nearly as majestic as the leg. During televised Olympic events, cameras don’t zoom in for slow-motion shots of competitors’ big toes. 

Small, simple, and overlooked, the human big toe might be dismissed as being unimportant, if it weren’t for one quirk of our human design. The big toe makes it possible for humans to walk and run upright. It’s what separates humans from apes. The big toe plays a critical role in maintaining balance, because it bears most of a person’s body weight. The big toe acts as a shock absorber when people walk or run. 

If a big toe goes missing or stops working, the entire body suffers. The same principle applies in the church, the body of Christ. As Paul pointed out in I Corinthians 12:12–13, every believer is part of the body of Christ, regardless of who they are. 

Obviously, there’s not a one-to-one correlation between the physical human body and the spiritual body of Christ. God doesn’t appear to individual believers in dreams to announce, “You’re a nostril,” “You’re a spleen,” or “You’re a medulla oblongata.” The image of Christ’s body is intended to show the interconnectedness of His followers and the importance of every person’s contributions. 

The actual role we play in Christ’s body may not be obvious to us. We may not always recognize how we fit together with other parts. But that’s not our concern. The Lord makes sure that the various parts of the body work together. Our concern is to do what we do to the best of our ability. 

As is the case with the big toe, our work is essential. The rest of the body depends on us. If we don’t fulfill our role, the other parts of the body will suffer. 

In the big picture, it doesn’t matter how other people see you—or even how you see yourself. All that matters is how God sees you. And He sees you as an essential part of the body of Christ. That’s why, as Johnny Cash puts it, “you have to be what you are.” 

Heavenly Father, thank You for creating me with a unique design and purpose. Thank You for giving me a vital role in the body of Christ. Give me the wisdom to understand how best to use my skills and abilities within the body. Remind me of my importance when I start to lose sight of it. In Jesus’ name. Amen. 

This is an excerpt from Walking the Line: 90 Devotions of Truth and Hope Based on the Faith of Johnny Cash a new devotional now available on Shop all books, journals, and devotions from DaySpring here.