As the start of the winter semester at Regent is upon me, I’ve been reflecting on the last six months and the changing season this has been for the family and I. There’s lots that could be said – we’ve felt the calling to the new and scary, seen God’s hand providing in some amazing ways, mourned the loss of the familiar and been shaped by the change. Beyond the relationships and community that we left behind, I find myself most missing a sense of competence.
Being a student is wonderful and stretching, but it also means that I wake up most mornings feeling like I don’t know exactly what I’m going to do, whether I’ll be good at it, and where this all is leading me. On one hand it’s terrifying, but on the other hand I’ve never felt so much like I am where God wants me to be. There’s a unique confidence I’m finding in this season where I lack the competence that I had when I could go to a job and know approximately what I needed to do most days. It’s not that school expectations aren’t clear – they are, and I’m loving my time at Regent and would highly recommend it to anyone. I just lack the sense I had before of being a competent employee who could provide for his family, and I think God is shaping me in that.
I’ve had Galatians 3:28 running through my head lately. It’s a familiar passage to those who have been around the church for a while and points to a great number of theological truths.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
The problem of wrapping our identity up in what we do is talked and written about a lot, but I think it’s one of the hardest things to avoid. We’re good at quickly reducing things into numbers – salary and bank account balance, square footage, year or engine size of a vehicle, etc. Our technological connected world has made it so easy to reduce our lives and influences to measurable quantities and compare them to others – Facebook or Instagram likes, twitter followers, song downloads or blog views, or whatever else it may be that I’m probably not doing well. I think we’re ALL drawn to these things because they help us measure things that are important to know. Wisely using and developing the gifts that God has given you is fantastic, but there lies this danger of focusing on that aspect of what we can control and eventually it begins to control us. Maybe we spend too much time meditating on passages like Jeremiah 29:11 about God’s plan for us or 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 about spiritual gifts without considering the bigger story (or evn their broader context – check out 1 Corinthians 12-13).
What could this list from Galatians look like if Paul was writing it to the church today – what are the things that we use to define ourselves?
There is neither refugee nor native, race nor gender, student nor CEO, married nor single, famous nor unknown, supporter of (this political party) nor (that political party), for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
The first things aren’t untrue, they’re just not the most important. I love thinking well about strategic leadership and communicating clearly, and I don’t think those things should be negated, but we can’t allow those desires to shape us more than this profound reality. Our default as people is to make some part of what we do the centre of our identity, but Jesus is. This understanding, steeped in the mercy and Grace of God leads us to the Lordship of Jesus and affects the way that we understand justice and righteousness in a world that judges on things that can only be added to the first part of that list. We are one in Christ Jesus, and as I’ve found the other good parts and labels of my life being peeled back for this season, I’m finding a new hope in this truth.