Where are you from?I am from many childhood moves across the Midwest and New England. I am from academic achievement, always among the top of my class. I am from parents who were married, and parents who are now divorced. I am from teenage betrayal of my best friend for the price of remaining in with the larger group. I am from boyfriends who were fun, but whom didn't share my love of this Jesus with whom I was just becoming acquainted. I am from deep doubt about my body's cycles and deep awe at what God has done in that brokenness. I am from midsize city, and sprawling suburban. I am from urban, college town, and international universities. I am from potlucks with jello and I am from farmer's market vegetarian healthy. I am from work-a-holic 12h days and I am from 24/7 full-time mom weeks. I am from years of cross-cultural language study modeled by my mom and pursued on my own. I am from family. I am from starting over with new friends in new places.
More than the sum of all negativesBut all this is not me, it is not a full picture of my identity. These read like biographical facts or census data, but they do not approach who God has desired to help me become. If up to me, probably I would too strongly self-identify with some of these past shadows and allow the moment or role to define my present and future identity. I could be...
- "a child of divorce," rarely trusting my spouse or still turning to serial relationships in fear of committing and having it go all wrong.
- a "too-hard working over achiever" that finds worth in career or conquered accomplishments, ashamed to be out of a job and caring full time for small children.
- a zealous and prideful "eco-conscious vegetarian" who angrily condemns other's spending priorities or lifestyle.
- an "expatriate" trying to distance myself from very average Midwest potlucks and conservative American viewpoints by living as, studying among, and befriending internationals.
- just a wife, just a mom, just a sister or daughter, just a friend.
Instead, God has made it clear since I became a Christ follower 11 years ago, that His plans are for me to fit into His eternal story of redemption. It is clear that more than the sum of all negatives, God's restoration and free gift of grace have and will accomplish greater good. All this in spite of me.
|Valjean forgiven and with a new chance at life, Les Misérables, 2012|
Child of GodChristians believe that when the Holy Spirit gives the gift of faith, the old self dies and we are gifted a new identity as hire and child of God. A book/show/film that comes close to showing much of this identity switch is "Les Misérables." Jean Valjean finds new life gifted to him by a priest's forgiveness and charity - no longer is he a former convict. Like many of us would be, Valjean is overwhelmed, hopeful, and yet fearful of his former prison guard, Javert. Many Christians have experienced great life change due to the workings of the Holy Spirit, yet many still live under a shadow or three from the past.
Some shadows heap guilt or shame, other shadows play up victim's fears, and other shadows stoke anger and bitterness.
See, although Christ followers need never doubt God's absolute sovereignty and complete forgiveness through Jesus's death that was once and for all people, we live in-between Calvary and Christ's return. We live in-between forgiveness of our sins and complete eradication and reversal of all evil. We also live in-between the tension of diverse individuals and a common identity as "child of God."
If being a child of God isn't my primary self, my whole self, then all the rest that I cling to are essentially idols, and I risk refusing grace and freedom. All those above labels that I could be, those are often hooks in my life that stress, sadness, or disappointment bring out. But the Spirit gives me strength to refuse anything less than what God gives. Rather than relating to others through old roles, Jesus has freed me. Rather than seeing the present and future -- all of life -- through situations in the past, Jesus has freed me. Rather than finding my identity or worth in those labels or the struggle to push past those labels, Jesus has freed me to be his child.
He has freed you from the weight of past situations, people, and labels -- are you still clinging to old stuff, or to your new identity as child of God?
"For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons and daughters of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Daddy!"
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?" Romans 8:14-15, 35
** Note: the "I am from" essay form is a common writing workshop tool. It is also extremely helpful for reflecting on how one self-identifies, or reflecting on the values that one holds. Give it a try! If you publish it online, leave a link in the comments. Thanks!