What defines you?

To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.
e. e. cummings

Pacific Rim Trail / Ucluelet, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada / Julie Cook / 2011

I imagine if you ask people what it is that defines who they are, most people would respond with something associated with their work or job. It is as if they are a product of the job. I had written an entire little preamble to today’s topic about work, jobs and identity..of how we tend to let work or the job suck up our identity but I really didn’t like where that seemed to be leading…feeling as if I began veering off base.

My intention and my thoughts here are to go much deeper than the mere obvious.

When asked what it is that defines me, defines who I am…my response a year ago would have been that I was a teacher–I’d follow that with my being a wife and mother. I think that’s pretty much how most of us would answer when asked. We define ourselves by telling others what it is we do for a living–our job, our work. We tell others that we are a student, a soldier, nurse, a contractor, a policeman, a doctor, a wife, a husband, a mother, a father…. But do any of us, who are Christians, respond first with “I am a Christian”…then to follow that with what it is we do?

Have you ever been at a function and met someone for the first time with the first question usually being, “so, what do you do?” They want to be able to define who we are, measure our place, figure out how we fit in…what is our production level–are we being successful, are we a contributor, are we a rising star, a game changer, will we be impressive or someone who is to be quickly dismissed.

There was a time, in the early days of our Christian faith, when it was dangerous, even life threatening, to be defined by ones belief and faith… and yet the early followers of this new religion did not skirt the issue–it was the foremost defining factor in their lives…the foremost defining factor. It was that big of a deal to them.

Somewhere, sadly, along the line of Time, the definition of being a Believer no longer seemed appropriate to throw out there when “defining” ourselves to others. Our faith no longer relevant when telling others of who we are. I’m Scotch/ Irish, I’m adopted, I’m a wife, a mother, I’m a retired educator…all of that sounding normal, typical—but if I were to met you on the street greeting you with “hi, my name is Julie. I’m a Christian” You’d probably look at me uttering something awkward like “oh, ok, uh good… uh good to know” all the while thinking you needed to move along quickly as you’d just run into some sort of fanatic.

Awkward, not relevant, not socially acceptable….

But it shouldn’t be that way–it should be standard.

If we are believers, if we are members of a Christian church, if we claim to be of a denomination, then why wouldn’t we first announce the definition of who we are by stating that we are a Christian, a follower of Christ? How many people have happily, defiantly, proudly, strongly, bravely proclaimed to be such knowing that they would face imprisonment, torture and death? How many people have sacrificed everything to be able to say that they are defined by their Christian Faith?

Sadly we consider it awkward and out of place proclaiming our faith when meeting others. Would Jesus not proclaim us to others joyously and gladly without a second thought? We will not be twisting arms or pushing others into corners with our proclamation but rather we will simply state who we are foremost, as everything else simply follows suit.

On this new day to this new week, how will you be defined?

6 comments on “What defines you?

  1. Geralyn says:

    what a great post! It’s funny, I have trouble telling ppl what I do knowing that whatever I say, they’d look at me funny. I know they want to know about me, but what I know about me isn’t what they want to hear. Even when I say, “I’m a mum of two… so that’s what I do” that seems to be met (among my peers, at least) with nods & smiles due to my age/age of the children. The degree I studied is even more bizarre to most (“what’s theology?”) and the job I currently have goes over their heads or their eyes gloss over. I can’t help it if what I breathe, think about, talk about or live for is all to do with God, with my identity in God. So yes… what defines me? Good question. I’ll think about that, and perhaps you can read about my thoughts on BORN SPECIAL. 🙂

    Have a great week, Julie.

    • Val says:

      To you both — when did the idea and aspiration “to love God and serve him only” become somehow not good enough. The reception I get from many, even (sadly, and too often) in church circles is that God and theology and serving the Lord isn’t big enough/good enough/”enough” enough. All that religion stuff neds to be in the “extracurricular activities” or “interests and hobbies” box. That it could be the main thing isn’t good without lots of schmancy degrees and credentials. We wouldn’t have the New Testament if the disciples and apostles thought that way. My hunch is that the first thing out of Paul of Tarsus’s mouth wasn’t “tent maker.” When did discipleship become an add-on?

      • I whole heartedly agree with you Val–the word fanatic gets tacked on very quickly with what “nice society” deems the overtly religious—it’s as you say, to be tucked away in the box of extracurriculars…. With the rampant growth of secularization (what I call the death of the Christian church throughout much of western Europe) throughout Europe and “western society” those who continue wearing their faith on their sleeves are shunned, avoided, labeled, classified…. With the appeasement we have towards the Muslim world as well as the acceptance of homosexuality as fitting in perfectly into the Christian faith, Christians indeed are doing their own faith a huge disservice…we sacrifice and chip away at so much of ourselves (that being the Christian faith) and our belief system in order to accommodate everyone else, that one day we will wake up and we will have very little remaining of our own faith and that of the true Church…….

      • Val says:

        Yes, my former church home voted itself out of the PC(USA) denomination yesterday, and the other problem is people who retreat to claim integrity while leaving everyone else to stand and fight. To anyone reading this, the main Presbyterian denomination in the U.S. is currently splitting on grounds related to holding the line on scriptural authority and accomodating (or not) in various ways. It’s been an ugly mess. So it’s not merely what defines us and our lives and faith, but what defines the church that is also under fire. The trouble is that “not hate” is often seen as accomodating, and true vitriolic hatred is seen as orthodoxy. I have a relatice who does wish to exterminate Muslims yet makes sure the world knows she wears a TEAM JESUS jersey. A question was asked yesterday in class as we studied the first and second great awakenings regarding the appeal of evangelical Christianity. A Ph.D. who has been the friend of our teacher (who is also my friend and also a Ph.D.) came out with an answer that was going to be the opposite of my response but which precluded a response from me without a cat fight. And my point was going to be that what ecangelical Christianity lacks is deep roots against heresy. Christianity defining a person is one thing, but as soon as a person draws that line in the sand, every wave of evil in the ocean is going to try to come and wash that line away. The next logical question is, if your Christianity is your defining factor, what defines your Christianity?

        There are an awful lot of folks that balk at that.

      • let us pray that it is Holy Scripture that will define the Christianity–

  2. Val says:

    Reblogged this on St. Val the Eccentric and commented:
    Very worthy of a reblog, something that made me think this morning.

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