So I follow RELEVANT Magazine on Facebook (which I highly recommend) and each day they post a question. A few days ago the question was:
“If you could describe yourself in one word, what would it be?”
This instantly caught my attention because it is clearly an exercise in self-definition. As I am starting out on this blogging adventure my main focus is centered on this idea of definition – how do we define ourselves, how does the world define us, and how are we more than what those definitions really say?
The responses people posted as answers to RELEVANT’s question ranged from the comedic “rutabaga” to the Christian “Disciple” to the cultural “pimp” and “awesome.”
The way we define ourselves is a clear reflection of the identity we aspire to, something we wish to hold on to and proclaim to the world around us. For a long time I have struggled with this concept of identity; I keep finding that if my identity depends on those around me, then it will be constantly changing and unstable. After all people’s opinions change daily.
We have to consider the reality that despite whatever we choose to define ourselves, someone else probably defines us differently. Whether this is a communication flaw in how we present ourselves to the world, or improper judgement on behalf of others, we can’t deny that these labels pop into our minds daily as we meet others and try to understand each other.
So then what can one’s true identity, one’s definition come from? Well God seems to be the first answer here – but that doesn’t mean it’s the easy one either. Defining our identities in God is a challenge unto itself because it means denying everything the world has ever told us about ourselves.
You were told you weren’t attractive, that glasses don’t suit you, that brunette isn’t as good as blonde – but God tells us you are fearfully and wonderfully made, in every sense. You were told that you were only a jock, an athlete, a one-trick wonder who wouldn’t do anything else – yet God tells us we can move mountains, we can do all things through Him if we believe.
Ask yourself the question:
Have you let the world define you with statements that are nothing but lies?
How is that different from the definition God holds for you?
I would like to think that if asked this question I could coin myself as “undefined” – so that I could flat out rebel against the idea of defining myself at all, because the words we have are often not good enough to describe the beautiful truth God has for us. The words we have can’t encompass the challenge of really being a “disciple” or being “His” or being “beloved.” Again though I have to be realistic that I probably don’t always live up to that, because it is hard to not fall prey to a world that daily tells us something different.
Even if it isn’t a label, but it is our own self-definition, living it out is always much harder than stating it for two reasons:
1. because then you have to live up to those expectations, when most certainly we will fail at times and
2. because you also have to live down to it, meaning it limits what you really are as a child of the most High God, who lives within Christ, who is outside the definitions of this material world.
It is ok to find an identity for ourselves, it helps us to remember that each individual is special in a world of 7 million others. But don’t forget to go beyond those definitions, to go to the boundaries, and explore the way God can rewrite those labels in His own beautiful ways.
What word would you pick for yourself (if you had to)?