Click here to listen – descriptors-2.mp3
What is one word that would accurately describe you? It would be revealing to ask our friends for their answer, although we may not necessarily enjoy their responses. I have always been shocked that people find me intimidating. I like to think of myself as being forthright, but apparently the way I proceed is often thoughtless of the feelings of others and sometimes harsh. Or I am asked why I am angry in a discussion, my facial expressions and body language depicting a quite different emotion than I am feeling. I thought I was just being passionate about the subject, but perhaps underneath there is unrecognized anger. We have a drive to be understood, recognized for who we are – connected and accepted without needing to compromise our true selves – despite the mystery of its depths even to us. Darker realities of our being lurk beneath the surface that we rarely have the courage to acknowledge let alone confront. When we do it is usually devastating to our superficial perception of ourself, and we doubt that we would be acceptable to others if known on that deeper level. Yet how intensely we long to be understood, accepted, and lovingly challenged to be better versions of ourselves by at least one person who truly knows us. However there are few – if any – we can trust with that level of transparency. I love the lyrics of that song “Iris” by Goo Goo Dolls “And I don’t want the world to see me Cause I don’t think that they’d understand When everything’s meant to be broken I just want you to know who I am”. Can you relate?
Especially now it is difficult to be recognized as an individual in a culture that determines our worth by outward factors which may or may not express our personal values. Who we are is sifted through the sieve of externals: religion, race, gender, pc speech, social background, political affiliations, etc. You can so easily be ostracized and even vilified by things totally out of your control. Who we are as a person is dwarfed or obliterated as we are agendized to further someone else’s cause. Submit we must to be validated.
It is no surprise that our insecurities compel us to devote our time and energy on garnering a particular image that gives us social value, at least to our own group. Hip, cool, beautiful, woke, intelligent, funny, dependable…… fill in the blank for your desired descriptor. Of course, one or two adjectives don’t entirely reveal the person they define, but they give us an overall picture. Notice the strategic use of adjectives in news stories which tilt the reader’s opinion for or against the person involved – even before the situation is described. The author’s intention is made evident by the lowly use of a modifier.
Why do we strive so hard to be what others judge as acceptable? Psychologists would answer, rightly so, that there needs to be some measure of uniformity in society to preserve the race. Granted. Ultimately though, I find it very disheartening to try to be worthwhile by measuring up to somebody else’s imposed measures that fluctuate with the social climate. I also recognize that I am flawed, but must persist in being true to my identity nonetheless. So what label can be meaningful, pure, worth pursuit? I think it would have to be the one God gives me.
My creator knows me inside out. He knows what I am thinking, feeling, desiring. He has a plan, a purpose, a path designed just for me. “For we are the product of His hand, heaven’s poetry etched on lives, created in the Anointed, Jesus, to accomplish the good works God arranged long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10 Voice) Crazy, right?? Who could embrace such a thought? A fanatic? A pathetic loser? Well, apparently God Himself chose to love without measure and interact with any willing to risk it. Furthermore, we discover that it is not just earthlings who assign adjectives to people. God Himself chronicles the lives of a few individuals that we can look to for examples of what He is looking for to populate an eternal kingdom where righteousness rules. Encouragingly, they were flawed and quirky individuals who simply decided to go another way, to follow a calling King. Their societies largely rejected them – and Noah’s in particular paid dearly for it. Plus they were crazy enough to embrace the hope of an unseen city, live the upstream life of faith, and say yes to a God Who asked for unexpected behavior. Noah was asked to build a huge boat when rain had not yet been experienced on earth. And he did. I am sure the scientists of his time laughed. Yet we are all descendants of one of his sons. Abraham was asked to leave to go to an unknown destination. And he did. Those who choose to risk all to follow God like he did are called his children. I am one of them.
There are many others God recorded who heard, believed and obeyed, but consider Abraham for a moment. Spiritually speaking, here is a person who has left an indelible mark on humanity and history. He is a key figure revered in several different professing religions. Outwardly, he seems like just another rich guy traipsing around the regions of Mesopotamia with a household of probably a thousand people. Folks probably labeled him as “eccentric” because he was rich. (If he had been poor they would have called him crazy.) The Chaldean Gazette would probably have described him as prosperous, connected, family oriented, married but childless (hugely important in his day), successful, courageous (he defeated some local tribes to deliver his nephew Lot), nomadic, resourceful (passed Sarah off as his sister to avoid possible execution), moral (he sacrificed to his God), fanatic (willing to sacrifice his own son that he had acquired ‘miraculously’), and who knows – maybe even fashionable and handsome.
Then we read permanent records in the Kingdom Chronicles: friend of God (James 2:23), father of faith, father of many nations (Genesis 17:5), father Abraham (Luke 3:8), the defender of Lot, father of a multitude, son of Terah, sojourner, father of us all (Romans 4:16), righteous – and the list goes on. Amazing! He lived his life with abandonment to the wishes of a God who promised him the stars (literally) although he did not see the fulfillment of that promise in his lifetime. He was seeking a heavenly city, a place permeated by righteousness and glory. He did not see it during his rather lengthy stay here on earth, but what he did see persuaded him to live without the approval of his culture. My favorite descriptor of him is one that I covet. It says it all – Abraham the believer (Galatians 3:9)! The choices we make here demonstrate our values. My hope and prayer is that each of us has that adjective written after our name in the books that are being written in heaven! See you in the city!