We will never experience life in loving union with God as long as the roots of our identity, meaning and purpose are grounded in something other than God.
-M. Robert Mulholland, Jr., The Deeper Journey, p. 112
I heard this quote not long ago and it stuck with me. It got me thinking about all the things that I am often tempted to find my identity and meaning in, other than God.
Thus, I started thinking about the things that in reality don’t define me. Or at least shouldn’t…
1. I am not a minister
Or a “church planter” for that matter. Or a leader of a missional community in Santa Cruz. One of the first questions that is asked when we meet people is, “What do you do?” I am lucky that my vocation isn’t just what I do, but really is who I am. But even at that, it is tempting to let my significance get wrapped up in that role. And when things don’t go how I think they should, that is bad news when that is where I am drawing my worth from.
2. I am not American
‘Murica. It’s a great place. Even with it’s issues and imperfections. But we have a tendency to worship a civil religion and get it mixed up with our faith. Being American somehow becomes entwined with or more important than not only being a Christian, but being a part of the global human race. It’s part of why I’ve been increasingly uncomfortable with pledging my allegiance to anything or anyone but Christ. But perhaps that’s another blog post.
When we traveled to Africa last year to work with Cherish Uganda, I had people who asked why we would help over there when there are so many issues here. I understand the question. I agree there are lots of needs to be met here and I want to be a part of sharing compassion and justice here, as well. I am also connected to and responsible for people in other countries as a member of humanity and that is important, too.
3. I am not Democrat or Republican…or Libertarian
Nowadays my Facebook news feed is full of articles and such about politics, whether from a conservative or liberal angle. It’s not gonna get any better with a way too long presidential race kicking into full swing. And I quickly start to get sucked into it all. Partially because politics is important as a vehicle for fighting injustice and I am still wrestling with what level of engagement I think is appropriate for the church. I admit I get frustrated that because I follow Jesus it is often assumed that I’m a Fox News conservative. I tend to want to make it clear that I’m not. But if I look for ultimate meaning, purpose, or salvation in politics I am going to be sorely disappointed.
4. I am not straight
So there’s this pretty intense discussion in church worlds right now about how LGBT inclusive churches and denominations are or should be. That is not a discussion I’m looking to have on this particular post. However I do think it’s worth noting that a big point being missed in many of these conversation is that of identity. This one is tough because our sexuality really is a huge part of who we are. But no matter what my orientation, my identity shouldn’t be rooted in that. There are plenty of men in the church world who define themselves by some cultural macho image of what it is to be a straight man and some church cultures not only allow, but encourage this. Not cool. Before we have arguments about what you think is or isn’t OK, let’s talk about what is defining our identity. That is the primary conversation and is the same regardless of orientation.
5. I am not evangelical
Yeah. That word. Besides the fact that I really DON’T want to be defined by that word at all because of what it’s come to mean (see Fox News conservative comment above), I should be wary of being defined by any church movement or denomination. I am also not Baptist, mainline, Anglican, Catholic, etc. All have some beautiful parts and some crumminess. Doctrine and tradition is valuable so far as it draws us to the source. Our labels usually screw that all up.
6. I am not a sinner
Now that one may get some push back from my more fundamentalist friends. A common Christianese phrase I’m not a fan of is, “I’m just a sinner saved by Grace.” I understand what the point is. Yes there is some truth to it as well. But I will live into whatever I continually tell myself defines me. I think it’s interesting that none of Paul’s letters are addressed to “the sinners in (fill in the blank).” They are to the saints. In the language of scripture, yes, I was a sinner at one time. But that doesn’t define me. I am a saint. Who also happens to fall short of God’s ideal for me regularly. But those shortcomings are not who I am. When my kids misbehave, I’ve tried to get into the habit of reminding them they are good kids and invite them to live into that truth rather than tell them how bad they are.
I often find it easier talk about what I am not rather than what I am. While I did just spend a whole post defining what I’m not, I admit it’s more important to know what or who I am.
I am beloved of God.
Period. His creation. His kid. And so are you.
Not cause of anything I do or stand for or represent. Just cause I am.
Rooting my identity in THAT truth brings life and relationship with God.
Some of those things above are byproducts of that, but they aren’t the source.
What identity, meaning, or purpose are you finding outside of a rootedness in God?