12.04.2007

Sense of identity

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Our sense of identity is a complex thing. In part it is shaped long before we are aware of it, yet it is also formed every moment by the choices we make and the experiences we encounter. Yet the nature vs. nurture debate doesn't get at the totality of our identity.

The core of our identity is this: We are chosen by God. Jesus affirms it in John 15:16, when he says to his disciples, "You did not choose me, but I chose you." God created each of us to bear his image, and to reflect God's light into the world.

Just as our own life histories only make sense viewed through the lens of our families and our communities, our identity as people chosen by God is framed by the identity of God – the God who is revealed as creative, relational, and merciful, and self-identified as "love."

We know our places in our families through story. We learn how our great-grandparents came from the old country, how mom and dad met and courted. We learn about the work they did and the personality traits they carried. As these stories are told and retold around the family table or the fire, they become ours, and we know in a deeper way who we are.

The wisdom of this text from Deuteronomy is that it reminds us that those stories and our self-knowledge are incomplete without God's story. Telling God's story to our children (or our parents), writing parts down and posting them on our blogs, recalling them as we wake and work and worry. This isn't just a law to be followed. It is what the Apostle Paul called praying without ceasing, which is not withdrawing into a non-stop retreat of silence and holy words, but is living with gratitude for God's presence and gifts in the midst of life.

We can choose to live immersed in God's story, take it for granted, or run from it – just as we can with our human family histories. And we will be different, based on the choices we make.

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