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Archive for March, 2014

Cashier totaling grocery purchases

 

As I approached the grocery check-out, I was surprised to see an acquaintance behind the counter.  Another pastor’s wife.

“Hi, Cheryl*,” I said, while loading produce and paper products on the conveyor belt.  “I didn’t know you worked here.”

“I just started,” she explained, swiping my purchases across the UPC reader screen.  What she said next startled me.  “Jim and I are getting a divorce.  I’ve moved out, and needed a job to help support myself.”

“Cheryl, I am so sorry.”

“Oh, no.  Don’t be.  It was my choice.  I couldn’t stand it anymore.”

If the divorce announcement had startled me, her next words were downright shocking.  Especially because they were spoken with such bitterness.

“It just became unbearable not to have an identity of my own.”  Cheryl almost spat out her words.  “I was always ‘Jim’s* wife.’  Well, no more.”

My first thought was, hasn’t she sensed the team effort of a pastorate?  Couldn’t she take joy in how God was using her husband? 

Perhaps Jim was partly to blame.  Maybe he never included her, using the pronoun “I” more frequently than “we,” never affirming how important she was to his work and well-being.

When I told my husband, Steve, about the encounter, he said, “Cheryl doesn’t realize her identity is in Jesus.”  

He was right.  She must have thought that asserting her own personhood would somehow make her more important.

Just what is our identity in Jesus?  Nestle down into the comforting words of these scriptures:

“Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over…all the earth.” (Genesis 1:26-27).

Author and theologian, Melvin Tinker, adds this insight:  “Men and women are the jewels in the crown of God’s creation.  Out of all the beings in the universe only men and women are God-like, bearing His image” (Wisdom to Live By, Christian Focus Publications, 1998, p. 112).

Did you get that?  You are a jewel, created uniquely by God, in his image.

“What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?  You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor” (Psalm 8:4-5).

Each of us is highly valuable to God–crowned with glory and honor.  No position makes a person more important in God’s view; no gift makes someone superior.

“Those who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons [and daughters] of God” (Romans 8:14).  

Think of it.  If you know Jesus, you are a child of the almighty King of the universe!  You are royalty in God’s kingdom!

“Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Romans 8:17).

And what have we inherited?  Countless blessings here on earth, and eternal bliss in heaven yet to come.  That doesn’t mean faith in Jesus results in a utopian existence.  This world is tainted by sin; we suffer the consequences.  But one day we’ll share in Christ’s glory and the hardships endured here will seem inconsequential.

“You have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority” (Colossians 2:10).

If we’re feeling incomplete or empty, only Jesus can fill that void with peace and contentment. HE is everything we need:  our Savior, Care-Giver, Guide, Source of peace, blessing, and contentment.

So!  At the first symptom of an identity crisis, let’s access that “fullness in Christ” through gratitude and praise.  We can thank God for creating each of us unique and special.  We can praise him for our gifts and talents that bless others and fulfill us.  We can revel in the privilege of living for the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:12)!

And we can embrace this truth:

“Your real, new self…will not come as long as you are looking for it.  It will come when you are looking for Him” (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity).

 

(photo credit:  www.biokineticspt.com.)

 

*Names have been changed.

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“I even wash aluminum foil so I can use it again–if it’s not too messy,” joked a friend.  “My son makes fun of me, but that’s what my mother did, and I just picked up the habit.  Seems so wasteful to throw away a perfectly good piece of foil, just because it has a bit of goop on it.”

We were discussing the frugal habits passed down to us from our parents. They were children during the Great Depression, and learned to conserve, reuse, and make do.  Now, eighty years later, the effects of that difficult time are still impacting many of us today.

Might the same effect occur in the spiritual realm?  Might our spiritual habits not only impact those around us, but even generations to come?

Legacy-Postcard

An anonymous psalmist alluded to our long-reaching influence:  “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who finds great delight in his commands.  His children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed…his righteousness endures forever” (Psalm 112:1-3).

James Moffatt (1870-1944), theologian and professor, also spoke poetically of our ongoing influence:  “Death is never the last word in the life of a…man. When a man leaves this world, be he righteous or unrighteous, he leaves something in the world. He may leave something that will grow and spread like a cancer or a poison, or he may leave something like the fragrance of perfume or a blossom of beauty that permeates the atmosphere with blessing.”

42-21217958

Who has left “something like the fragrance of perfume or a blossom of beauty” in your life?  I am surrounded by the examples of:

  • my grandparents’ perseverance
  • my father’s wisdom
  • my mother’s resiliency
  • a favorite teacher’s sense of humor
  • a choir director’s positive attitude

To name a few.

When I was a small child, our family’s pastor called each of us girls “Little Miss Sunshine.”  I found myself trying to live up to the name.  Now, decades later, I still feel the influence of his affirmation.

As a teenager I benefited greatly from the examples of various youth sponsors.  One married couple in particular took me under their wings and mentored me.  Their example of integrity, service, and caring, lived out in a loving home, remain with me to this day.

And so many more!  We really are composites of the countless influences we’ve absorbed.

Now, it’s our turn to pass on a worthwhile legacy.  We mustn’t give in to the notion that Generations X and Y will always find us irrelevant.  One day they’ll realize older persons have the benefit of experience, and experience gives rise to wisdom.  And whether we are present on that day or not, our example will be.

Most of what they absorb will not be the words we have spoken.  They will remember our actions.  Kids watch and learn–sometimes intentionally, but most of the time not.

learning-by-observing

We are the ones who need to be intentional, living out a legacy of character and faith, to be a perfume of blessing.  If we do, the fragrance of our Christian maturity will permeate the atmosphere for years to come.

We can also be encouragers.  Others will remember positive affirmations.  At least one Little Miss Sunshine can attest to that.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Please leave a comment below.  I’d love to hear from you!

(Photo credits:  www.jeaninemurk.com ; http://www.telegraph.co.uk ; http://www.inspiredwednesdays.blogspot.)

 

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