Friday, February 8, 2013

Hello, My Name Is

I was thinking the other day about the ways in which we define ourselves apart from Christ. I always thought how so much baggage is done away with simply by dropping the "I'm a graduate" (i.e. I'm smart), "I'm a runner" (i.e. I'm fit and healthy), "I'm married" (i.e. someone thinks I'm beautiful and loveable), or whatever your safe identity is, and resting simply in, "I'm God's child."

At the same time, I've started realizing recently that God celebrates diversity and I think sometimes he likes us to be "Jesus' little girl, who is also a linguist." Of course, those definitions can get very fine, so a line has to be drawn somewhere. What if you introduced yourself as, "Hello, I'm a limited-Sapir-Whorf theorist"? (Although in some circles, that would be very defining; in others, you might as well say "I love broccoli.")

Why do we have these identities? They make us different, give us a place, someone to be. Who I am is what gives me my importance and my role: suddenly I know what I must (or get to) do and I know how to behave socially. The talker, the bookworm, the joker, the decision-maker, the eater. It may not even be a flattering role, yet we cling to it like a life-vest.

Because of that, I used to think that we may as well dispense with all these false identities. God wants us to be who we are, completely and wholly, and moreover He wants us to be so gloriously, not in a limited or even negative way. These things so often become our idols, which may sound odd, but idol is really just another word for life-vest: that thing which helps you to live and survive. You may not think you are smart enough or pretty enough, but by gosh you can play soccer like no other, and that makes you important. You dang well make sure everyone knows it, subtly, and puts you in that category before they label you as useless or as "the stupid one."

The thing is, we all want to be recognized, and the search for that--even for just a healthy dose of it, just to know that you are loved and appreciated by a few--can lead to dark places. Failing to achieve it can be even worse. (For you know, we were created with the desire to be loved and recognized and admitted to the group; all of us want our parents and our friends to love us because we were made to love each other and live in a big family.) Should we chuck it all--the search, the labels, the limiting or even false identities? Be children of God and swim in that?

Well, yes and no. You see, as I've immersed myself more and more in being God's beloved--laying down other identities sometimes by choice and sometimes because I am forced to by, for instance, losing my physical capabilities through a bad knee--I've become not only more special and beloved and recognized. As those desires  are satisfied, I've become more beautiful in the unique way that God made me.

I'll pick the obvious way this has happened. I have always been a writer. I can't remember a time when a blank page and colored pens didn't breathe life into me and whisper opportunity in my ear. At around the age of twelve, the little stories I wrote and sang and mostly imagined started to become more real. I realized I had a talent. And I decided right then that whatever else I did in life, writing would be a part of who I was and what I did. It seemed I couldn't get away from it if I tried; words and sentences and stories arose even in my dreams and begged for their own voice.

But for many years it was a closely-held identity, and I guarded it jealously. The funny thing about writing is that everyone wants to write a novel someday, and so most people don't take you seriously. Or else, they take you seriously because they take themselves too seriously. As soon as I would tell someone my future dream, they would start telling me about how they were a writer as well, and telling me what they wrote.

Some people I encountered weren't half bad. Many were terrible. A few I believe with all my heart should be published (among them, my brother and father). But nevertheless, as soon as someone heard I was a writer, my hackles would rise and I would get in defensive position. I wanted them to know that I was better; I was a GOOD writer, a real writer, and one day they would see my name on the bestseller list. Don't tell me you're a writer too; I am want you to be impressed, dang you! Because I am impressive! I am important!

You can hear it, can't you? That little voice speaking up quaveringly from the soul, becoming like a lion in the brain? It says, "I want to be important. I want to be worth something. I want someone to love me. I want people to think I'm amazing." If you take the Biblical account of creation, humans are the pinnacle of all created things, the most glorious, most advanced, most unique, most powerfully beautiful, and most dangerous. Despite the evil in us, the broken things, the wounds from what others have taken or marred, we all want to return to being the glorious thing that all creation wonders at. We know we belong there.

But not as gods. That's the thing. Like my writing is a reflection of my thoughts and passions, our beauty was a reflection of His. We were made glorious not to be adored for it. We are adored by our Creator no matter our glory; rather, we were made glorious in order to adore HIM.

And so, in my search for recognition, God stopped me one day with writer's block and said, "You need to stop writing. And you need to trust me, that if I have truly written this on your soul as you feel it, then I will bring it back in your life; but that if I choose another thing for you, you will do it and find as much joy there as you do in this. Give it up for me." So I did (with much anxiety), and so began one of the biggest growth periods of my life. In place of what I had held dear, God showed me new talents and developed them, and pushed me into areas where I had no talent and made new skills grow.

But slowly, over time, it came back. It started with essays, and then stories, and, at long last, after begging and pleading and praying, poetry too. And God said to me, "Write, because I've written it in you as your passion, your joy, your glory. Don't worry about the details--getting published, advertising, getting readership; I will handle that. I've made you to be a writer, and I am going to take care of you as a writer."

That's the thing. I am God's child. Specially designed to be loved just as I am, my soul, my personality, bare of those labels which, I admit, I still use, like introvert. God loves me, labels aside. And he can see me in all my introversion and even those extroverted qualities that may lurk. He doesn't need a label, because he sees me as I am. Is that what it means when it says that God knows my true name and that on that day when the earth is renewed, he will whisper it in my ear? Will he tell me who I am, a word that describes no one but me, a word specially designed by the Great Linguist to say everything that is Me?

That is how special I am. And we are all like that--specially known, with a name He made for us. We are unique, and yet in our uniqueness, we are united; in our diversity, we are all children of God. That is how he made it to be: all equal, but all different. And that is why I can say I'm a writer, and not just that, but a syntactician, a linguist, an avid reader, a ex-soccer player, a lover of all things British, a would-be traveller, a happy wife, a wanna-be Wilberforce abolishing slavery, and, yes, a limited-Sapir-Whorf theorist. And each of those is a God-created aspect of me that He has known, that He built into me, and that He has a name for. They are not who I am. But for now, they will do.

God be praised, I am nothing but--and everything that--He made me to be.