by Tim Weaver
Who am I? How do I define myself? As we gathered around tables at the November 2019 Faith & Life gathering, Maria Hosler Byler invited us to think about ourselves and who we are. Are we defined by our roles? Are we defined by our family connections? Are we defined by how others define us? She asked questions and invited us to place ourselves on a continuum – and to see how others placed themselves on the same continuum. Are we eastern PA native or immigrant; introvert or extrovert; male or female; clear-cut and organized or messy and open-ended; in conflict are we direct or non-confrontational; a rule follower or rule challenger?
We spent some time identifying the different roles that we each carry with us: father, husband, friend, aging white male, pastor, educated, privileged, USA citizen, political party, etc. After we identified some of the many roles, we positioned ourselves according to our identity we feel most comfortable discussing; our identity we feel least comfortable discussing; my identity where I feel the most joy; my identity where I have experienced the most pain; my identity that provides me the most privilege; that I am most proud of; that I have to defend the most.
Then we read Colossians 2:6-12 from several different translations. With all the identities we named: pastor, friend, husband, father, aging white male, activist, etc. – where and how does Christ fit? How does Christ interact with our identities? Is Christ simply one of many identities we carry around with us daily? Paul reminds us that in our baptism we have buried the old and become new. We have had an encounter with God’s love that shapes our identity. We reflected on how that is at the core of who we are ‘In Christ’. It also births within us a new vision of a world made whole, where all are important, and where peace reigns. Our identity ‘In Christ’ is meant to be lived out through all the various roles we have. ‘In Christ’ is not a theological debate discussed in abstract terms about certain roles in our lives. Rather, it is Christ permeating each of our identities. Growth, maturity, and depth occur as we acknowledge our identities which are most difficult to allow Christ to permeate.