Who are you? Besides your name, what titles or identities do you carry around or proudly profess? And which is primary, the one that most informs the others? Does it matter? Let’s think about that.
I am a wife, mother, and grandmother. Consider my extended family and I add daughter-in-law, sister, niece, cousin, and aunt. I’m a friend and mentor, military BRAT and military spouse (RET). At my church, I’m a small group leader and part-time volunteer. As an author, I’m a writer, blogger, editor, and marketer. All of those identities are important to me in varying degrees.
We could apply any number of labels from society, including my gender, age, sexual orientation, race, country of origin, and cultural heritage. I’m a college graduate, introverted, short, reserved, creative, analytical, and conservative. All of these labels tend to be much lower on my priority list.
I could go on, but you get the point. We all carry many identities with us everywhere we go. Some are defined by our DNA, some we worked hard for, some were cast on us by others. These labels affect our thought processes and decisions more than we usually consider, particularly the ones we grant the greatest importance.
Out of all I’ve listed for me, I purposely left one out that is of utmost importance to me. In fact, I try to make it my primary identity, informing and molding all of the others. Curious? Keep reading.
A Story from RC Sproul
Spiritual identity means we are not what we do or what people say about us. And we are not what we have. We are the beloved daughters and sons of God. ~Henri Nouwen, Dutch Catholic priest, theologian
Let me tell you a story from RC Sproul, an American theologian and pastor. He once wrote,
My wife and I were traveling in Eastern Europe with another couple several years ago. When we crossed the border from Hungary to Romania, three burly, rough-looking soldiers boarded the train to check our passports and examine our luggage. Their leader indicated that he wanted to see our passports. As we handed them to him, he pointed to our luggage. As I rose to reach for a large suitcase, he suddenly stopped me. In broken English, he said, “Wait You not American!” Then he looked at the woman who was traveling with us and said, “You not American.”
I must confess I was gripped by a vise of fear. The man pointed to a paper bag our friends had on the seat beside her. “What is that?” he asked, pointing to the edges of a book that protruded out of the top of the bag. She pulled out her Bible. I gulped, thinking to myself, “Now, we are in real trouble.”
The soldier took the Bible and began to leaf through its pages. He opened to the second chapter of Ephesians and pointed to verse 19. He ordered: “Read.” We read aloud, Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.
Instantly, the soldier’s face radiated with a benevolent smile as he said: “You not American. I not Romanian. We are citizens of heaven.” Then he turned to his fellow troops and said, “These people okay.” He returned our passports and bade us Godspeed.
Your Primary Identity Matters
How many of you were as surprised as Dr. Sproul by this exchange? How many of you would have reacted as the guard did, rejecting your nationality and identifying yourself with a foreigner, someone who looked and thought differently, maybe believed different things about government and culture, simply because you seemed to share the same Lord?
Don’t misunderstand. I love being a wife and mother and grandmother. Those (currently) eight people are critically important to me. I love my extended family, my friends, my readers, and much of what it means to be an author. The military holds a special place in my heart, and I appreciate all that the United States offers its citizens.
However, I work hard not to allow gender, nationality, race, or any other factor to become more important than the fact that I’m God’s adopted child. All my identities matter, but everything short of Jesus is secondary. Less important.
Perhaps it would be good to take a look at a passage of Scripture that conveys something not obvious at a casual glance. John 1:14 says, The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. Many take comfort from that verse, and we should! God, leaving heaven, becoming a man, living among His people. It’s incredible!
But let’s go back to that word translated “dwelt.” The classic Amplified Bible best denotes the word’s original meaning. Read John 1:14 again in the AMPC. And the Word (Christ) became flesh (human, incarnate) and tabernacled (fixed His tent of flesh, lived awhile) among us.
Tabernacled. Just like the Tabernacle of the Old Testament, Jesus’s move here was temporary. It was never to be a permanent home. From the beginning, His life on earth had a time limit, and He never forgot that fact.
Too often, I do.
- I forget that this life is not all there is for me.
- I forget God is in charge
- I forget that my priorities are to bring God glory and love His image-bearers.
I think it’s also important for people to really see that your identity doesn’t come just from what you do but who you are. My relationship with Jesus Christ is the most important thing to me. Because of that, I don’t have to change whether I am one of the most popular guys in football. ~Tim Tebow, American football player
Just like Jesus, we are not permanent residents on this present earth. We will not forever contend with the problems we face in our age, not that we should ignore injustice. But perhaps we could take time to pray before we act and react. Take a moment to remember who we are in the Kingdom and therefore who we represent.
Perhaps with prayer and thoughtful action, we’ll do far more good than we thought possible.
Deployment changed him, and she doesn’t know if she can live with it.
After her husband returns from a deployment to Saudi Arabia, Lori Braxton begins noticing little differences in his behavior. He’s withdrawn, moody, and can’t sleep. Could it be the stress of military life after the 9/11 attack on New York? Maybe it’s the new assignment in Montana or the financial problems he ignores. Perhaps it’s forces she can’t see and doesn’t know how to fight, or maybe she’s a bigger part of the problem than she wants to admit.
What is God doing? Is He even paying attention?
Lori tries to attend church and do what God asks, but the truth is she doesn’t really hear Him speak. Between money strains, pregnancy hormones, and young ones underfoot, Lori spirals into depression.
What good could God possibly bring from the mess surrounding her?