A few years ago, we were in the hot sun of Africa. I feel like I talk about this a lot, mostly because I do. But that trip changed my life. Seriously. It ruined it for the best. There’s no logical reason we should have been on that trip, either. We were broke as a joke. We had about $300 to our names and we took it all with us for incidentals that might have come up during the two weeks we were there and the one day we were in Paris. My husband was unemployed due to an unforeseen layoff. I was the sole steady breadwinner with my minuscule paycheck from my part time jobs at our church. But, we wound up in Africa anyway. We were sort of in a lost, wandering phase of life. Not away from our faith or anything. Just, not really knowing what to do and how we were going to survive. But I think we found more about our identities under the heat of the equator than we ever did in our familiar homeland.
Maurice was one of the pastors we were working with. Two days before we were to leave, we almost had to cancel our trip. 2010 was not our favorite year. It was the year of David’s layoff, a bad wreck that totaled our car and left us with an unexpected “new to us” car payment, and then New Years Eve, we found ourselves in the ER due to inexplicable pain that David was experiencing.
David crouched by Maurice in an African field deep in the bush land while they steadied the log and sawed it before bringing it over as another piece for the church building we were constructing. He shared his woes with Pastor Maurice. I’m sure he almost felt a little guilty for complaining about any of our problems because they paled in comparison to the ones that Maurice and his people had faced. But, he chose to be authentic and share his struggles with his brother in Christ nonetheless.
Maurice responded to David with something that has forever changed our perspectives, “God has created you for a purpose that He hasn’t created for anyone else.”
He did? Yep. He did.
Lately, I’ve been noticing something from friends who start to tell me about their new romantic relationships.
I hear things like, “He’s really attractive. He works at a good company. He treats me really well. He goes to church with his parents. And he’s a Christian.”
I’m sure I was once guilty of spouting of the list somewhat like that too. But I’ve realized there’s a flaw in the way we identify ourselves and other people.
Instead of saying, “I’m a Christian and…” or “He’s a Christian and…”, we should be saying, “I’m a Christian WHO…” or “He’s a Christian WHO…”
Why? Because bearing the name of Christ is not an “and” type of thing. No, it’s an exclusive identity and the essence of our unique purpose that has been given by God.
Like Maurice said, God has created each one of us to be full of purpose… His unique purpose that He spoke over us when He created us.
Our identities were never meant to be wrapped up in our tasks or titles, though.
The identity precedes the purpose.
Something our family really struggled with after my dad died was that we were no longer the Pastor’s family. In fact, we were Pastor-less for quite some time.
Growing up, my sister and I were referred to as the Pastor’s kids. And my mom always introduced herself as, “the Pastor’s wife.”
But when he left for glory and we remained behind to finish the rest of our own stories, those titles were no longer pertinent.
The Holy Spirit began to breathe truth into us that we were, “Emily,” “Mary,” and “Sally,” and that our identities were not wrapped up in our family relations, but in the names we wore- the individual ones given by our parents- and the name of our maker…our accepted redeemer.
Each of us are so much more than a list. We are more than a spouse, a friend, a worker, a parent, a laundry doer, a cook, a cleaner, a … whatever else it is that we do or in whatever capacity we relate. We were created not only to bear the image of our creator, but to bear His name. Some accept His name, some sadly don’t.
My earthly dad was always destined to bid us au revoir. The name and identity he was able to give us, though strong, were filled with limitations and set with an end since their commencement.
My Heavenly Father, however, brought an identity that would fulfill His purposes and speak my purpose into existence the day that He redeemed me.
Because of Him, I’m not just a list of “ands.” My “ands” are punctuated by His purpose because of the identity He has graced upon me.
I’m no longer a wife and sister and aunt and daughter and cousin and friend and granddaughter and daughter-in-law and granddaughter-in-law and preacher’s kid and a decent cook and great with kids and an English major and a writer and someone who enjoys art and a reader and a writer of letters and Oscar’s mom and a wanderluster and a church goer and a Christian and someone who once played basketball and a college graduate and the family laundry doer and a nanny and someone who has a yardsale and a biker and a mountain lover and a history buff and fair skinned and a brunette and tall and working on losing weight and a girl named Emily and a night owl and an extroverted introvert.
No, that’s far too complicated and meaningless a list. Unless…
Unless it’s filtered by my identity.
My identity brings the purpose to the mad-long list of “ands.” When I bear the name of Jesus for each one of those tasks, titles, and descriptions, I carry the unique purpose He has placed upon my life. Consequently, each one of those things is strung together into a meaningful life, rather than one full of seemingly random bullet points.
Have you been summarizing your life by bullet points? You were created and called for so much more than that, friend.
Your life was never meant to be a resume.
It was always meant to be employed by the one who gave you His very own name and asked you to be about His Father’s business.
You have no one to impress or convince by your lists.
There are so many to win by the name that remains the same no matter what you do.
Wear it first. Let it define you…rather than all the “ands”.
In doing so, you’ll discover your unique purpose…the one that Maurice was talking about… has always been wrapped up in the name of the Most High King.
Be Emily… or whoever you are.
But first, be Jesus’s name bearer.
“But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.’”
Isaiah 43:1 ESV