Category Archives: Christianity

Are you who you think you are?

Identity - who are you? who am I?

Who are you? Who am I?

I recently found out using Ancestry.com that I’m a quarter Irish. I had no idea. No one in my family had ever mentioned Irish ancestry, just German and British. I’d always looked down my nose at St. Patrick’s Day. So I was surprised.

I’m ridiculously happy about being a quarter Irish.

This is all silly, right?

After all, nothing about me fundamentally changed. My DNA didn’t change. My body didn’t change. My history didn’t change.

The only thing that changed was my story about myself.

That’s what identity is – our beliefs about ourselves.

Even those things about ourselves that we didn’t choose.

Some facets of our identity are simply givens. The facts that I’m a 58-year-old white brown-eyed woman, genetically predisposed to short stature and high cholesterol, are completely out of my control. Some talents and personality traits seem to be in this category, too.

Some facets of our identity are results of our history and past choices. I’m a Westerner, an adult child of alcoholics and a survivor of sexual abuse, a clergy spouse, and a mom.

These pieces of who we are – our givens and our history – aren’t the important pieces, though.

The really important components of my identity are completely within my control.

The crucial, determining components of my identity are the stories I tell about my givens and my history and my choices.

What do I believe about being 58? What do I believe about being a woman? What do I believe about the alcoholism in my family? What do I believe about being married to an Episcopal priest and mothering my kids? What do I believe about my schooling and work choices?

Do I believe I was irreparably damaged by the drinking and the abuse? Do I believe I’ve made irredeemable mistakes?

For a very long time I believed that I was broken by my history. I stayed quiet and hidden so I wouldn’t get whacked again. On a good day, I congratulated myself for persevering. I found things about me to be grateful for.

But because I didn’t really believe I was strong and good and smart and valuable, I had to keep proving those things to myself and others.

How tiring.

How futile.

Lately, though, I’ve been listening to the wise part of me. The quiet little voice, the one muffled by my stories, has been getting louder and louder. “You’re strong,” she says. “You don’t have to prove anything.”

What changed?

What changed is that I’m examining my stories.

Redefining ourselves accurately requires surfacing our stories and evaluating them, keeping the ones that empower us and challenging the ones that diminish us.

Redefining ourselves, becoming who we really are, requires mindfulness, courage, compassion, and support.

I’m choosing to believe that I really am a child of God. I’m choosing to believe that I’m an embodied bubble of Holiness. I’m choosing to believe that my soul, my true self, my “undamaged essence,” is intact and shiny. I’m choosing to see my stories as self-protective fictions that I’ve outgrown.

Because underneath the givens about ethnicity and inherited physiology and history lies a deeper truth – an identity that trumps all others:

I am a unique, irreplaceable, precious, absolutely essential child of God.

So are you.

When I look at myself, my history and choices, from this perspective, everything changes.

When I look at you from this perspective, you change, too.

The St. Patrick’s Day party’s at my house next year.

(The above image is unattributed online. I looked and looked...)

Good Christian or Bad Christian?

Westboro Baptist Church by yksin flickr

Westboro Baptist Church children protesting gay rights at a military funeral. (Thanks to yksin on flickr for the image.)

These days, whenever I identify myself as a Christian I find myself adding “the good kind” to differentiate myself from people like the members of Westboro Baptist Church, who also call themselves “Christian.”  (They’re the ones who picket funerals of soldiers and celebrities to draw attention to their virulently anti-gay agenda. Westboro Baptist may identify itself as Christian, but it’s classified as a hate group.)

I wonder whether it’s smart to use the “C-word” so prominently on my website and blog, because I might be turning off the very people I want to reach — people like me who are uncomfortable with that word because of what it’s come to mean to many.

Especially for younger Americans, the word Christian brings to mind judgmental, rigid, exclusive, hate-filled, rule-mongering defenders of purity. With Christians like Westboro Baptist running around, who can blame them? Boy Scouts, some of whose church sponsors pulled their support after the Scouts admitted gay kids, have reason to be suspicious of Christianity, also. And that’s just a start.

The lig part of “religion” is from the same root as our English word ligament. Just as ligaments connect bones and support organs, good religion re-connects, bolsters, coheres and unifies. Good religion connects us to God, to each other, and to ourselves. Jesus was ALL OVER healing and including and bolstering and making people whole.

I’m going to go all in here and say that Christianity that severs and excludes is “bad.” Period.

An Episcopal church in San Francisco opens its sanctuary weekly to provide food for anyone who comes — more than 1,000 families at last count. St. Gregory of Nyssa’s food pantry inspired the feeding programs of many churches, including St. Mark’s Episcopal Church here in Medford, Oregon.  The Episcopal Church voted last year to sanction and support what many clergy were already doing — blessing same sex unions (aka marrying gay people). The relief and development arms of many Christian denominations are doing powerful work throughout the world.

Jesus’ healing and whole-making work continues, out of the spotlight and on the ground. That’s good Christianity — the kind I hope I am and intend to be.

St. Gregory of Nyssa Food Pantry. Thanks to monicajensen for the flickr image.

St. Gregory of Nyssa Food Pantry. Thanks to monicajensen for the flickr image.