There is a general tension in the air throughout our country surrounding almost every major topic of conversation. We are walking on eggshells. Afraid to say whether we like the president or don’t, should wear a mask or not, support blue lives matter or black lives matter, and on and on and on. We don’t discuss things anymore, and we are very aware that if we express the “wrong” opinion, to the wrong person, we’ll get written off as “one of them.” The end result is that we find people who are “on our side” who say things that we agree with while refusing to listen to the “stupid” or “evil” other side.
How did we get here, particularly as Christians? How did we get to a place where collectively we have so pigeonholed ourselves to specific viewpoints that anybody who disagrees with us is written off as unhinged or simply “blocked?” To the point where we believe maybe it would even be better if they weren’t alive.
Part of the reason we are where we are is that we do not know who we are anymore. We have been shaken at the very core of our identity as a nation and as humans. The amount of social, scientific, and political change in the last 40 years is truly staggering, and it is only speeding up. We’ve gone from dialing seven-digits on a rotary phone to Tic-tok; Facebook and Twitter are now the main ways we communicate. We’ve gone from being the only habitable planet in the universe to realizing there are probably hundreds of billions of them. We’ve gone from believing our nation is the best and most righteous to realizing there are deep flaws and difficulties with it, just like all the other nations around the world. And that’s before we get into what the future is going to look like with artificial intelligence, quantum engineering, surveillance states, big data and all the rest coming.
All of these things add up to one very disturbing reality: we don’t know who we are in our world, as humans, or even as members in the universe anymore.
We are wrestling with our identity. We are not just wrestling with difficulties in our world or differing opinions, we are wrestling with who we are and how we understand ourselves. We are faced with onslaught after onslaught of changing social pressures, major catastrophes, and persistent demands for action without a clear direction of what that action should be.
With so much uncertainty and instability, is it any wonder that we grasp for and hold onto ideologies, political tribes, and even conspiracy theories for dear life? We are floundering to find something that anchors our identity and our soul in the world. So we grasp ahold of anything that promises stability or answers. Then when someone challenges or pushes against what we have grabbed ahold of it doesn’t feel like they’re questioning a thought or an opinion; instead, they are threatening one more thin thread of stability. We react like they are threatening our identity because they are causing even more chaos in our already floundering world. We only want to know what to cling to and have it be stable.
Now, take a breath.
And a long pause.
Breathe in and feel your lungs fill. Breathe out and feel it flow away from you.
You are alive, and it is a gift from God. Every single breath, every beat of your heart, every thought that flows through your brain. Each tingle in every corner of your body is a gift. You don’t deserve it. You don’t own it. You can’t even completely control it or protect it. It is a gift. We call that gift life.
With that gift of life, you are meant to find your identity in God. Nothing else brings order and peace to us. If you look at anything around you, the only thing that pushes back on chaos and disorder is life. Life takes the uncertain and chaotic and brings order and structure. God has done that with you. He placed his life inside of you, called you up out of the dirt, and set your feet upon this rock. From the beginning of creation through the end of all that is, God’s life is forming and sustaining. “He is before all things, and by him all things hold together.” You are part of all things and held together by him.
More than just existing, however, you are created, you are breathing, for a reason. “You are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.” You have been created by Christ, placed right where you are, to use your life to push back on the world’s chaos. That is the identity we are called to cling to.
First and foremost, we are called to ground our identities on the unshakable foundation of the God of the universe. Our identity has to rest in bigger things than the ramblings, the rantings, and the panic-stricken aligning with our world’s ideas. As the Psalmist says, “let the nations conspire and the people plot in vain…I will proclaim the LORD’s decree: He said to me, ‘You are my son; today I have become your father.'” Your identity as a child of God anchors your soul in something far more significant than all the shaking and turmoil around us. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever so no matter how chaotic our world feels, he is a rock we can stand on.
And just maybe, if we can remember that, perhaps we can have a civil conversation about what social policies should be enacted or who we want as president.
Until the next time our paths cross, wherever God has called you to, stay on mission.
Pastor of Spiritual Development