In case you haven’t noticed, I have been on vacation the past couple weeks. In fact, today is my first day back at work since July 26th. It was a wonderful time of renewal without the demands of a schedule. It was also a time to spend with family and friends. You see, on July 30th, I was delighted, privileged, thrilled to attend both my family reunion on my mother’s side and my high school reunion. (I refuse to tell you which one.) Anyway, I enjoyed seeing family and friends I haven’t seen in quite a while. These are my people. They connect me to my past for better or worse. They knew me when I was a child, through my teenage years (I am so sorry) and they love and care about me in spite of it all.
But even more they remind me of my history. I see my mannerisms, values, even looks reflected back to me in the faces of my family and I remember who I am and where I came from. I think that is a lesson to keep with us throughout our life journey. We are who we are because of the people who have impacted us throughout the years. We are who we are because of the DNA that runs deep in our cells. Keep in mind: That doesn’t give us a pass to say, “that’s just who I am,” if our behaviors are less than what they should be. What it does, is illuminate our behaviors when we choose to remember, why we are who we are. And more importantly recognize and change those behaviors that need changed.
It is why I believe the best definition we can claim for ourselves is this: “I am a child of God, made in God’s image, fiercely loved by God,” and that is enough because there is no better definition for who I am or who you are. It also helps me as I interact with others. Because it is the definition I use for everyone. I have found that for me, it reminds me that we are all loved in the eyes of God. More importantly, it reminds me of this simple question: “Who am I to treat anyone as less than who is loved by the God of all creation?
Which means that any time we put someone down who we don’t agree with or who is different from us or for any reason we treat someone poorly, we are disparaging a son or daughter of God, and we are only adding to the pain and hurt in their lives. We don’t have to understand their lifestyle. We don’t have to understand their choices. We don’t have to agree with them on every issue. We are not called by God to judge the people in this world. We are however, commanded by God, to love everyone.
Here’s the thing: We have no idea the life someone else has led or the events that have impacted them in ways that are both positive and negative. For some those impacts are ones we wouldn’t wish on anyone. But they have endured through them bringing unhealed trauma into the words and actions of their lives. When we return love for the anger and hate inflicted on us, we end the cycle. This is why Jesus taught that we are to turn the other cheek. This is why Jesus allowed all the actions that led him to the cross, to play out. This is why we are called to choose love over hate…it is why we can courageously check our anger at the door and sit with people as we listen to them and hear their stories. It is what most people want more than anything: to be heard and to be seen. Most importantly: Our world doesn’t need any more anger.
May God’s love be with you as you remember not only who you are, but whose you are.