The text that is the basis of this review, John Ortberg’s The Me I Want to Be: Becoming God’s Best Version of You[1] can be summarized in one statement:  Practical!  The book serves as a manifesto that points the reader to theory and practicality of living and growing in a sanctified life that God has made each individual person to live.  The text is divided into seven parts that describe how the process of spiritual formation is different when a person views it from the script that God has written for their own life, rather than the script of another.  Ortberg states that the foundational idea of the book is that, “The only way to become the person God made you to be is to live with the Spirit of God flowing through you like a river of living water.”[2] 

            The book begins with a treatise of defining who God wants each person to be, by first looking at all the ways a person runs from that identity that is found in God alone.  Ortberg then focuses on living a life in the spirit as he explains what it means to live in the flow of the Spirit.  He writes, “One of the signs that you are in the flow of the Spirit is a sense of God-given vitality and joyful aliveness overflowing in you.”[3]  The remainder of the book dives deep into how a person lives their life in the Spirit, by shedding light on some new, street-level paradigms of viewing the sanctification process.

            Two major ideas that Ortberg makes central to the entire text, and truly draw the entirety of the text together are knowing yourself and knowing the God who created you.  In discussing true surrender to God’s plan, he reminds the reader that, “There is a God.  It is not you.”[4]  In  knowing one’s self, Ortberg discusses knowing, “every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us,” (Hebrews 12:1b, NASB)[5] or what he refers to as signature sin that stops the flow of the Spirit from leading believers into the life that He intends for each individual.  The greatest “So-What” of the entire book is that believers in Christ are not meant to live life alone, but to grow in faith, knowledge, and love within a community and within relationships that God places in their path.  He writes, “Fellowship has become a churchy word that suggests basements and red punch and awkward conversation.  But it is really a word for the flow of rivers of living water between one person and another, and we cannot live without it.”[6]  This is the bow that he ties on-top of a beautifully wrapped present of a book, that will help you see the best person that God has created you to be, and then live that life in the power of God’s free-flowing grace.             


            For some time now in the ministry that God has given me as a Navy Chaplain, I have been battling with pursuing things that I want to pursue vs. the things that I should pursue.  It is difficult to find motivation sometimes to go the extra mile and pursue life-giving ministry to my Marines because it might be easier and still socially acceptable to just keep the status-quo.  Ortberg’s words hit right in the center of my heart as he stated, “spiritual growth doesn’t mean a life of doing what I should do instead of what I want to do.  It means coming to want to do what I should do”[7]  He introduced me to a very timely analogy of a runner who is trying to finish a marathon and is battling between the should and want of crossing the finish line.  I ran the Marine Corps Marathon last week for the first time and can personally attest to this principle of moving from, “I should finish this race,” to “I want to finish this race!”  It was the desire to finish what I had begun that got me to cross that line 26.2 miles after the gun went off.  Much like the race, my spiritual growth and eventual ministry that will flow from it, will be exponentially more profitable when I come to realize that the “should” of scripture is good, but the wants of my heart to pursue a life with God are so much sweeter.  A mentor once told me that it is a a wonderful thing, and biblically sound to love your wife, but it is even better to like her.  The first is mandated in God’s Word, and the second flows from living a life that is changed by it.  These thoughts encouraged me greatly to see the ministry that God has placed before me in my functional purpose, as yearning rather than striving.  The me I see now needs to remember my first love and remember to whom I belong. 


            When asked by my soon-to-be mother-in-law which verse I would like put on our family cornerstone that they were gifting to us, without hesitation, I said Philippians 4:6-7.  With a puzzled look, she asked why that would be the best for our new marriage.  I explained how much of a worrier I could be, and how the military life would be so uncertain for Lindsay and I at times.  We would be asked to move perhaps at a moment’s notice to places we had never been, without friends or family anywhere in sight, and this was the passage that I thought would hold us together.  And so it has through 5 duty stations, 3 deployments, and a myriad of obstacles along the way.  Even through all of that, the greatest “ah-ha” moment I had while reading this book was a truth that I have known for some time, but Ortberg relayed in a new light.  Of anxious thoughts he writes, “The Spirit is a non-anxious presence.”[8]  This was profound considering his treatise on living in the flow of the Spirit, because it points to the biblical truth that with the Helper, God is always with us, and we need not fear or be anxious about what is coming our way!  He continues and writes, “Peace doesn’t come from finding a lake with no storms.  It comes from having Jesus in the boat.”[9]  This picture of Jesus with His disciples in the raging storm is one that is so vivid to me having ridden the wave of the North Atlantic in December embarked on a U.S. warship.  As a person who is prone to worry and anxious thoughts, it reminds me that as I grow in Christ and in my functional purpose as a Chaplain, that I do not need to avoid the rough seas of conflict, strife, or uncomfortable conversation, because God is with me.  Ortberg concludes powerfully that the peace of Jesus, “is the settled conviction that goes down to the core of your being…that all things are in God’s hands.  Therefore all things will be well, and you can live free of worry, burden and fear.”[10]  The me I want to see soon hops in the boat and says to the wind and the waves, “bring it!”   


            The me I want to become is truly clearer having read and reflected upon the truths in this book.  As with any lesson however, acting on what has been taught can be the most difficult part to allowing new truths to penetrate your heart and make a difference in your life.  The greatest technique in this text that stood out to me that I need to implement right now, is to ask God for a mountain.  Ortberg encourages, “So don’t ask for comfort.  Don’t ask for ease.  Don’t ask for manageability.  Ask to be given a burden for a challenge that is bigger than yourself-one that can make a difference in the world, one that will require the best you have to give it and then leave some space for God besides.”[11]  Having served now as a Chaplain for a little more than a decade, I have become quite comfortable with the routine of deck plate or flight line ministry and if I were to be honest, have become too comfortable.  Deployments are hard and time away from family is a sacrifice, but I am in a season in my current tour that would allow for me to ask God for a mountain of a task that is worth seeking in light of eternity, rather than sticking with what makes for a good fitness report or rapport with the command.  In order to do this, I will simply begin praying now that God would give me a vision for His purposes for me here, rather than my own.  Additionally, I will seek out accountability from brothers in Christ who will hold me accountable to going out on the limb that God calls me to.  Lastly, I will seek opportunities that stretch me rather than only volunteering for things that I feel comfortable with.  I know that my standing in Christ doesn’t change because I ask for more challenging things, but I do know that He would be honored in the pursuit of the mountain simply because it is His heart for me and not my own.  Ortberg sums this up well and writes, “Living the adventure God planned, becoming the person God created you to be, is not one pursuit among many.  It is why you were born.  It is worth wanting above all else.”[12]  The me I want to be is the me that God wants me to become.  Nothing more.  Nothing less! 


Ortberg, John.  The Me I Want to Be:  Becoming God’s Best Version of You.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 2010. 

[1] John Ortberg, The Me I Want to Be:  Becoming God’s Best Version of You (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010).

[2] Ibid., 39.

[3] Ibid., 40.

[4] Ibid., 60.

[5] The Holy Bible, New American Standard. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1979.  Unless otherwise noted, all biblical passages referenced are in the New American Standard version.

[6] Ortberg, The Me I Want to Be, 182. 

[7] Ibid., 80. 

[8] Ibid., 115. 

[9] Ibid., 116. 

[10] Ibid., 117. 

[11] Ibid., 247.

[12] Ibid., 252.

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