Thursday, April 12, 2018

limitless: a reflection on identity


You said I am made in Your image. I’m beginning to see myself in You and You in me. I used to think You looked a certain way and that I needed to be set aside so that You could shine through. Now I see that one gender, one race, one ethnicity, one personality is not nearly enough to contain the fullness of God, except in the person of Jesus Christ. We are all different expressions of Him, pieces of the fullness of His glory. 

The more I study racial unity and issues of gender and racial equity, the better I understand the need to see yourself represented in role models. Inspiration comes at least partially from seeing ourselves in someone else who is doing something that we didn’t think we could do because of our limitations. When we identify with someone we admire, that person is like a mirror, reflecting back to us who we could be, who we can be. So it is with God. He has made us in His image so that He reflects back to us who we could be, who we can be, and even who we are through our identity in Christ.

When I became a mother and was living in the sleep-deprived, postpartum haze of new motherhood, I lost myself for a while. I thought I was "just" a mother. Now, I see “God, Our Mother” in this poem by Allison Woodard  and I can see this part of You in me, imperfect though I am. When I gave birth to my children, my body broken for them and my blood shed in the process of bringing forth life, allowing them to “take and eat” of my body, I was like You. You said to offer my body as a living sacrifice and to take care of “the least of these,” and I can think of no better description of my painful, difficult experience with giving birth and breastfeeding.


"Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!"
--Isaiah 49:15

When I feel You have something pressing You want to tell me, I immediately start looking for words, and I am a little embarrassed at my need for You to be so direct and literal with me. Then, I find myself in a little chapel, waiting to hear from You, looking around desperately for some words to hang on to, and I hear You whisper, “I like words, too.” Jesus, the Word become flesh. My love for words is a love for You, The Word of God.


The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
--John 1:14

When I was a child, my family laughed and rolled their eyes every time we watched a movie and I interrupted to ask incessant questions about what was happening. My brother teased me when, as a 10 year old who had gotten new glasses, I asked whether my family thought that Jesus had 20/20 eyesight. I studied the Enneagram and found that one of the names for my personality type is “the Questioner." I notice myself worrying frequently that I am taking up too much space in conversations when I ask question after question, but I can hardly keep from doing it. I want to know more, to understand more thoroughly, to consider more perspectives, to dig deeper. Sometimes I think that I am too much, too intense. But then, I see all the questions You ask in scripture and suddenly, I think, “Hey! He’s a questioner like I am!” You use questions to draw people to Yourself, to engage them, to make them stop and think, to lead them to discovery, to teach and to enter into greater intimacy with those whom You love. I see the beauty in being someone who asks questions when they come from a place of love and purity, and now I can love this about myself because I love it about You.

When I think of You creating me to resemble You, I am undone. I can see value in myself that I could not see before when I thought that I was just an imperfect thing that needed to be set aside in order for You to show through the cracks. In awesome wonder, I behold the beautiful expansiveness of God and can’t believe that You took parts of Yourself and put them in me, crafting me not around but actually from these bits of You. 

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.

--Colossians 1:16

What an awesome, beautiful, mysterious thing for You to do! Loving You is loving Your imprint on me. Let all the defense mechanisms of my false self fall away so that when people look at me—and indeed, that when I look at myself—we see not just Your reflection but actually Christ in me. Behold, Your masterpiece. 

 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
—Ephesians 2:10

You are so great that one small part of Your vast creation cannot contain Your limitless glory. When I push beyond the limits of who I thought I was, letting go of shame and embracing the way You made me to be, my view of You expands. When I look past the bubble I've lived in most of my life (my own culture, gender, socioeconomic class, race, personality, etc.), and when I reach out to connect with Your beautifully diverse people (of all cultures, races, genders, personalities, etc.), my understanding of You deepens. When I drink in the beauty of nature--from the vastness of the ocean to the intricate detail of a dragonfly's wings, knit together by Your hand--I am drinking in the nature of the Creator. To know Your creation, Your image bearers, Your craftsmanship, is to know parts of You. 

...And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

--Ephesians 3:17-19

You overwhelm me with Your fullness over and over again, and I am amazed and grateful to know that I will never get to the bottom of Your riches.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it.
--Psalm 139:6


Reflection:
1. Consider the most salient parts of your identity. How do you see the person and character of Jesus through those parts of Your identity?

2. How does seeing His beauty in You affect the way you see and feel about yourself? 

3. How does it affect the way you see and feel about others who are different than you but are His image bearers, nonetheless?

4 comments:

Heather said...

Your paragraph about God as mother floored me! I’ve written about God as a mother before and never noticed these connections. How profound!

Lindsay said...

Thank you Heather! I want to clarify that this idea came from the linked poem by Allison Woodard. It floored me too! Was a total paradigm shift for me!

Melissa Schlies said...

What beautiful, affirming stories of how God has met you--and what wonderful scriptures to remind us that our identity rests in Him and that we were created for more than we can imagine.

Lindsay said...

Thanks Melissa! It’s been a beautiful journey.