First of all, let me begin by saying I do not have a firm grasp of the meaning nor the breadth of the term “identity politics.” I just know that being part of group can be fun. It can give us a sense of belonging. It can lead us to like-minded people with similar outlooks and experiences. But the healthiest people I know are the people whose identity source is the most myopic: their identity is found in Jesus. They may be part of many different groups, but the core of their identity is being a child of God.
This week in history is a particularly good week to re-evaluate how we derive our identity. Since my life is divinely orchestrated, it just so happens that my Bible study addressed this precise issue in Wednesday’s lesson. The study is by Julie Sparkman and in it she talks about how we sometimes act like orphans. I have never thought about it like that before, but it’s true. When we forget that we are a child of the One True King — the King who has never once left the throne and never will — we act like orphans. We behave as though it is all up to us, that we need to orchestrate everything in life. Acting like an orphan is an exhausting and futile endeavor. Where in your life have you been guilty of acting like an orphan?
Like many moms, the achilles that trips me up the most is my family. I strive for a level of control that is simply not possible. I love my boys so much and want the best for them so desperately that I habitually forget that I cannot produce any result. We can lead our children to good streams (our church, their school, our sports community, our home library are all wonderful resources for them), but we cannot make them drink.
I wish motherhood was my only orphan-minded example, but it’s not. It makes no sense but there are lots of areas where I act like I am in charge of making things happen. In sharp contrast are the words of Jesus in John 15:4-5.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
The mere mention of the word “abide” always reminds me of one of my all-time favorite hymns. The best version of it I’ve ever heard was Alison Kruass at The National Prayer Breakfast years ago, but sadly I can’t find any recording of it. But these lyrics are so centering for me, such a comfort when “darkness deepens.” If you don’t know it, you can teach it to yourself on hymnal.net.
Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see—
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
I need Thy presence every passing hour;
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.
I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.
Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies;
Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.
I hope you find your identity not in politics, not in being part of any group, but instead claiming the redemptive work Jesus did for you on the cross and resting in the truth that He loves you so much He died for you. May we choose to turn to Him each and every day, asking Him to “Shine through the gloom and point [us] to the skies.”
p.s. The gloomy picture above is from a few minutes ago, but I know God is with me through cloud and sunshine! Of course I’m still praying for the sun to burst forth as quickly as possible!