Linking up with #fiveminutefriday today on the word 'define'. No editing. No elaborating. Just five minutes of writing. GO!
I recently read an article in Relevant Magazine titled, "21 Things That Don't Define You". The premise of the article is that only one thing CAN define you and it's your identity in Christ. While I wholeheartedly agree, the reality is that these 21 things DO define us. The list includes: gender, marital status, race, your occupation, age, and physical appearance. These big deal things not only define us in the eyes of the world, but I would argue, in the eyes of our Savior as well.
Psalm 139:13-16- For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
We are defined by our likeness to our Savior. He knit us together in His image, therefore, our identity is seen through the gender, race, and physical appearance that God has given us. We may not like what we see in the mirror, but God designed each of us to bring Him glory in our own ways with our own physical appearance. The Bible describes Joseph as "handsome in form and appearance" (Genesis 39:6). God used this to bring about a plan which included Potiphar's wife and led Joseph to be imprisoned, but these perceived "setbacks" were key to God's eventual plan for Joseph.
We also define ourselves heavily by our occupation, marital status, and whether or not we are a parent. Since moving home to Michigan three years ago, I've been in search of a church home. Every single church bulletin has an insert or tear off portion for visitors to fill out and return to the church. I have found that every single one of them has a selection of options:
Isn't your marital status the first thing you want people to know about you?! If you're married, single, or widowed perhaps it's not such a big deal. But when you're divorced, it's pretty awkward to be defined by something you did not chose. I feel certain that these options are given because the church is mainly divided up based on marital status. If you're married, you get to go to this class. Singles (no matter if they're 18 or 37) get to go to this catch-all class. There is no specific group for the divorced people, unless you're seeking extra support, so why is this a necessary part of introducing yourself to a new congregation?
I know I often define myself by my divorce because I feel so branded by it, but I know that others are also defining me by this status. For good or bad. Many who have been through a divorce can empathize and provide assurance that "divorced" is not your only identity, but others don't seem to know what to say if you're a 37 year old divorcee with no children.
The Relevant article suggests that we look to our identity in Jesus. Victor. Friend. Adopted. Beloved. Daughter. These are the truest identities that God has laid upon us. Perhaps our churches can begin to look at the body of believers as a united group, rather than a disjointed bunch divided by marital status?
I am accepted in Christ. I am forgiven. No matter the circumstances of my divorce, it will always be a part of who I am. But we can work harder to cultivate a deep knowledge of our fellow believers when we seek to understand each other in light of our physical, marital, and occupational identities.
Let's use our identities to serve God in the best ways possible: to love one another, serve one another, and deeply fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Today let us encourage one another to identify most strongly with our God-given identities and to let our earthly identities serve their purpose in growing us to be more like our Savior.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, You also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
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Revive Me Again
When circumstances bring us down, only God can revive our hearts.