July 30, 2010
The Blessing of BecomingI've been thinking about identity lately. This can be good or bad for me. I'm a processer by nature, and sometimes that brings a deeper knowing of myself, a firmer confidence in who I am. Other times, it just makes me more confused and causes me to spend way too much time making decisions about extraordinarily trivial things, like what Kleenex box to buy for my bathroom (and therefore how others will frame or reframe their perception of my identity upon visiting my apartment and perhaps using the bathroom and viewing the deliberated-over tissue box).
You see how it can get a little confusing.
Lately, however, a couple of resources and experiences have converged to invite deeper (helpful) reflection about who I am. First, books. I too, like Rebecca and Christa, am reading Unsqueezed and am grateful for the reminders about what gives us value and what we're created for. And then I recently finished copyediting a forthcoming IVP book called The End of Sexual Identity: Why Sex Is Too Important to Define Who We Are (look for it in April 2011) by Jenell Williams Paris, a professor of anthropology (at my alma mater, thank you very much). While I wasn't particularly thinking about or wrestling with sexual identity before working on it, the book provided plenty of food for thought about what does--or should--define us, and how we can reframe the ways we categorize and perceive ourselves and others. (Hint: it has to do with us all being human.) I've also been meditating on some Scripture passages suggested in David Benner's book Surrender to Love, particularly Matthew 19:13-15, where Jesus calls his followers to become like little children. That adds more to the identity mix for sure. (As an aside, does Benner, or does he not, look like Harrison Ford in his author photo??)
Then at the beginning of July, I had the opportunity to take a weeklong systematic theology class taught by my esteemed colleague Dr. Gary Deddo. (I should note here that the fact that I wanted to take a systematic theology class caused me to do some identity reflection right off the bat. And the fact that I loved it was the source of further reflection. This was my first foray into anything deeper than a college Intro to Theology class.) Some of the many fascinating and brilliant hours of lecture on a whole range of topics such as the nature of God, God's providence, evil, Scripture and predestination (to name a few) were spent on the topics of gender and humanity. And, though there's so much more to these ideas (hint: it all comes back to the Trinity), a few pieces I've been reflecting on are that (1) we belong to God--all of us, whether we realize/acknowledge it or not; (2) as we become more like Christ we become more and more human--more and more of what we're created to be; which leads to (3) we are "becoming" people.
This idea of "becoming" as a central part of our identity is, if you'll let me say so, a very becoming way of thinking about who we are as human beings created by God. And it has far-reaching implications as we reflect on it, understand it more deeply, live into it. It also leads me to the last event that's caused me to reflect on who I am: I became part of a new age bracket, the thirtysomethings. Birthdays are, of course, a natural time to pause and reflect on who we are, where we've been, what we've accomplished (or not accomplished), who we've served (or not served), how we've grown (or regressed), areas of strength and weakness, regrets, victories, new skills learned, old skills forgotten, goals for the next month, year, decade. (Or maybe that's just me. Maybe others just blow out the candles and enjoy the cake.)
In any case, while in one sense turning thirty simply means turning another year older, it feels more significant to me in that it's a new decade, after a decade that has held the hardest years of my life. Right now, this new phase looks squeaky-clean, and breeze-dried-laundry fresh, even more than a non-new-decade birthday. Also, I've heard from others that the thirties are great.
I hope so.
But whether or not that ends up being true, and however I change/settle in to who I am as I come to know myself more and more, I want to hang on to the truth of being someone who is always becoming. For a girl who thinks she should have already figured out and perfected _____________________ (fill in the blank with anything--sword fighting, organizing the paper and mail that threatens to take over my life, Asian cooking, etc.) yesterday, having "becoming" at the root of who I am--who I've been created to be--is very freeing and encouraging. It takes the pressure off of having to be someone who has arrived or who is supposed to have arrived or who is fooling herself or others into thinking that she's arrived, and lets me be someone who is constantly on her way (which is what's always true anyway) to deeper gratitude and broader generosity and more noticeable peace and hospitable authenticity and childlike faith.
Besides being more accurate in describing who we are, "becoming" is also much more preferable than many other adjectives. For example, I had to laugh when, shortly after my birthday, I noticed the following verse in the Psalms: "Once I was young, and now I am old." I suppose I'll have to face that piece of my identity at some point. But the verse that follows that one is even more true: "The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand" (Psalm 37:23-24). The Father-Son-Spirit God, who made us and loves us, is the One who helps us become all that he created us to be.
So those are my reflections thus far, a few weeks into thirty. (On another aside, though, if Asian chef is part of your becoming self, my non-Asian-chef, thirty-year-old becoming self would be glad to come over and process some more with you . . .)