Identity and Gospel

Since we have had the privilege of living and working overseas, we love to interact with people from other cultures. My husband and I like to play a scary game. The rules are complicated. It is called, “name that ethnicity!”

MC PostBefore you go all weird on me, I’ve discovered that people from other ethnicities, now living in a different and powerful culture, have a strong desire for people to know about “where they came from.” It would be like trying to explain to someone about Friday night football in Texas, or shrimp and grits in the low country of South Carolina. There is so much more to ethnicity than a color of skin, or a shape of a forehead. But I digress.

On a recent trip to NYC (I act like we go all the time…. !) we rode a number of cabs, and would SILENTLY try to figure out the ethnicity and culture of the cab driver. Now this is where the rules get sticky. People don’t want to know what YOU think of their ethnicity, they want to share with you the importance THEY see in their ethnicity. So if we could figure out that someone was from Jordan, we would begin to talk about the Middle East and the fun of camping in a Wadi (think Palo Duro Canyon without a stick of vegetation) or if they had been to the shawarma stand at the fifth circle. Then they would begin to gush, reminisce and go on and on about how much they missed their home, their place of identity. We would become fast friends and before long invitations would come asking us to come to their home, share a meal, and meet their family. We couldn’t go, but we often left the exchange with a new friend.

I fear we don’t know or understand our identity. As children of God, we vacillate between being a princess in his kingdom, or becoming Deborah the warrior. And neither of those descriptors get at the heart of living with our identity in Christ. We have decided that if we wear the trappings of the identity, then the identity will be ours. So we’ve dressed in godly Bible studies and activities, and yet live with this angst that we really don’t belong here. In actuality, our identity in Christ says, Whoever you are in the Lord, go, be, rest. Our stance should be to crawl up in our Father’s loving arms and embrace Him so we can become Us. We can never find our identity in the stuff we do, or the things we wear, or the holiness that we seem to exude.

I want to be called for my lack of trust like Sarai. I want to know how to read the times like Esther. I want to be forgiven and faithful like Rahab. I want to see kingdom opportunities like Miriam. I want to be like Rhoda, the servant girl in Acts, who recognized a miracle long before the apostles did. At times I need to be like Hagar, the “thrown out one” who recognized that God was a God who sees, and named Him accordingly. I want to be like Lois in II Timothy 1:5 where she is described as a grandmother in whom faith dwells. All of these women were different. They had different skills, different backgrounds, and different upbringings. But they had in common an encounter with the God who changed them. That shapes our identity.

Yesterday was International Women’s day and I was taken back to my first awareness of the holiday, celebrated in a former communist country. Women were given flowers, typically a yellow inexpensive flower sold by the side of the road, from young boys eager enough to climb a tree, break off the flowers and be persistent enough to jump in front of your car hoping you would give them 10 cents for their effort in picking flowers for you. For that one day, the identity of women was celebrated. (I did laugh at those that said, “for today, strike from work and stay home.” Where DO you think we work!!)

God longs to pick you up, set you on his shoulders and say, “See this world? I’ve created you and I’ve created it. There is brokenness, and some of it will be yours. I heal. There will be abandonment. I redeem. There will be betrayal. I offer you fidelity. There will be a world calling your name. I give you identity.”

Mary Carpenter
A friend of Global Gates

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