I’ve become convinced that “finding your identity” is an exercise in idolatry. Identity is static and stagnant. It tends to serve the purpose of what we want others to see. Being “something” is less than becoming someone which is at the heart of our redemption. We are not identity; we are story. We change and grow. We are in the midst of the “already not yet.” We transform. Oh, some day when our Heavenly Father hands us that white stone and bends down to whisper that new name in our ear, then we’ll have our identity but it will be at the end of our stories. We get inklings of it now as His Spirit moves us through sanctification from wrath to righteousness. We’ll recognize our new name, therefore, and say “I knew it!” We will have become the culmination of all the vignettes that have created us, the fruition of all the events that God will have used to form us into that image, the image of His Son. Until then, we wait, we groan (Romans 8:22,23), along with the rest of creation. We are becoming more of who God designed us to be, more fully human, more robustly gendered, more completely like Jesus. Our stories will do that to us. This is why we can rejoice in our sufferings (Romans 5:3-5) as it produces the ability to wait upon Him in the process (endurance) whose likeness it creates in us (character) for hope’s sake, that future identity (which obliterates shame). Those echoes of future redemption keep us tethered to our “I am” that someday we will be like him (identity) when we see Him face to face. His identity gives us hope. Our union with Him gives us faith (I have been crucified with Christ). Our union with Him gives us movement (purpose) to live as opposed to finding ourselves, our identity, outside of that union.
1 Corinthians 16:13-14 Being a Man
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.
Be watchful – we are to pay attention to our surroundings. We are the contexualition of the Gospel. We are to be aware of what is going on around us and by paying attention we are to know where we are and who we are in that context. And then in doing so – we are to stand firm in the faith. We are not to stand firm in the cultural context but to stand firm in the faith, which explains the cultural context – not the other way around. We get to inform the culture. Paul does this in the book of Acts at Areopagus – “I perceive you are very religious…” He was the contextualization of the Gospel for the culture at that moment. Penetrating the culture with the Gospel – this is at the heart of Paul’s admonition to act like men. Be strong. Don’t let the culture get to you – get to the culture. As God’s story intersects with your story let your story intersect with theirs. And the beauty of it all comes home in verse 14 – let all that you do be done in love. Toxic masculinity – patriarchal bullying – attaches itself to one part of those phrases, “act like men,” at the expense of all the rest. When I am watchful, standing firm, being strong, all for the purpose of loving well, that is when I am most manly as designed by God. The cultural (be watchful), the spiritual (standing firm), and the gendered (act like a man), all buttress the relational (love).
In response to Peterson’s latest video https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=e7ytLpO7mj0&autoplay=1 I have a few thoughts to share.
“Lay hands suddenly on no man” Paul tells Timothy. The fascination with Peterson stymies me, frankly. He’s a natural law evangelist who has confused the curse of God (“and yet you will rule over her”) with the commandments of God. He seems far from grace to me as he preaches to the Church. While he correctly sees issues with how we raise boys, his cure is worse than the disease. Natural law, codified in the Commandments is fulfilled with Christ who says “Love…” which means our motivation is not dominion over others but humility in serving and giving. He seems, in his studies of Genesis, to have missed the point that our gender as male is primarily to reflect God’s glory as authority, not authoritarian. By making men victims he has gained a lot of traction amongst the “wild at heart” crowd. Victim identities will always inform a self-justification of blame-shifting and then try to dominate the conquerors. It’s a never ending feedback loop. The goal of the church, “first and foremost” (stated in his latest video) has precious little to do with masculine woundedness. We are not commissioned with taking back our man garden but to take on the world with the Gospel. Like his natural theology, he is consumed with binary opposition. Masculinity is never instructed to build a ladder to heaven. We don’t want what males apart from God’s Grace have to offer. We already have that and see it in operation. This cheering section for the testosterone laden is unhelpful and messy. Bring all things under submission to Christ is first and foremost, not Peterson’s gospel of the macho.
The number one question I receive from clients when they come in for therapy is “What do I do?” While I understand what they’re looking for and what they want, I also know that “doing” is what got them to where they are in the first place. And “doing” is not going to get them out of it. Doing is usually a form of self-justification, a self-works program to fix themselves.
Work, “what we do,” albeit important, is not of primary importance. Our work needs to be what flows out of something much more important: His work. You see, if our work is not informed by our worship then all we do is futile and worthless.
God is Creator, we are creation. We are designed to reflect Him. This means that we are ultimately dependent upon Him and His work. Romans 1:21 states that everything began to fall apart when “they knew God [and] they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
So we need to start there, honoring and thanking God; honoring Him for Who He is and thanking Him for what He has done. This is worship. Begin the day sitting in devotion to Him, where “His mercies are new every morning.” And then in those moments when doubt and despair creep in, “consider it joy,” as your faith (that He is worthy) is being tested, stretched, and strengthened. Embrace those moments. And then, in the meantime, during the menial tasks that occur throughout the day, “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Thats reflecting your God. In honor and thanks. The “doing” will then reflect that.
The Gospel, Jesus’ finished work on the cross frees us to sit in devotion to Him.
Worship. Walk. Work. In that order.
Holy Spirit, breathe on us that we might hear, that we might hope, that we might help those who…cannot breathe.
On Easter morning I awoke very early and went to the passage in John 20 where Peter went into the tomb to find it empty. I noticed again that Peter saw the head covering folded neatly to the side and wondered again why would Jesus take the time, after coming back to life, to carefully fold His shroud. There was much to do outside the tomb, people running around in a frenzy, worried and scared. Then it dawned on me. It was time to tell the chaos of death and destruction that Order was taking over. Jesus was beginning the slow and determined process of reconciling all things to Himself. There was no rush. He was so secure in His plan. This was Jesus saying to Death, “I got this.” And in the midst of our uncertainty and dismal outlooks right now, know this: He is slowly, carefully and methodically folding the history of evil and death into His purposes for our benefit. He’s got you! When He said to Moses, “the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” He meant it!
The three destructive emotions experienced by Adam and Eve when they “saw that they were naked” and they experienced shame were guilt, anger, and fear. 1. They covered up (guilt) in regret, attempting to prove to themselves that they weren’t really naked after all. Past. 2. They blamed each other. And God (“the woman you gave me, she made me eat”). This contempt (which turned inward to self-contempt turns to despair and depression, made them feel like they weren’t really naked or at least diminished that fact. Present. 3. And they ran and hid (fear) which made them hope they’d no longer appear naked. Anxiety and its frenetic energy keeps us on the run. Future.
All these emotions are in an attempt to deny, diminish or distort the obvious: we are hopeless and helpless in ourselves to solve or resolve our condition. We are naked, exposed, and in deeper need than we can imagine. But there’s hope in being “clothed” by Him, in Him and through Him. First, embrace the exposure as a gift and then engage with the Deliverer through faith. The destructive emotions will begin to dissipate and the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, etc.) will replace them as He clothes us in His righteousness (Romans 1:17).
There’s always a deeper reason to why God asks questions He clearly knows the answers. Like Jesus asking the woman “who touched me?” Or asking the woman at the well to get her husband, or Peter, “Do you love me?” the first question out of the gate out of the garden was “Where are you?” Not to shame them (they already did that to themselves) but to locate that shame as a flight from intimacy from Him, exposure that they were no longer loving Him.
Secondly, the next question revealed that they were no longer listening to Him: “Who told you…?” This was to locate their faith as distanced from Him.
Then, and only then, does behavior come into the picture with “What have you done?” Disobedience is the fruit of that process in an attempt to feel better. Works of the flesh are just that: OF the flesh.
The Gospel answers all three those questions, in that order. God first reveals His Worth, through His Word, by His Way. All Personified in Jesus. Faith and repentance lets us reverse our sin-filled, shame-soaked direction.
Our story of power, our “dunamis,” our “dynamic” or “vibe,” using modern parlance, is the image of God. If He is an emotional, rational, volitional, God, He is incorporating all of that always to be relational. It therefore means he is existential, experiencial. This is how He reveals all that He reveals. He is, after all, the God of Revelation. He is Wrath and He is Righteous because He is Holy, Holy, Holy. We get the brunt or the benefit depending on our condition. If reconciled, we get the benefit of revealed righteousness through faith “beginning to end.” If not, we will be objects of wrath, given over to our idolatry, immorality, and disordered individualism. We will experience His dynamic one way or another. If we attempt to “suppress the truth in our unrighteousness,” well, we’re given over to that as well.
Our “vibe” is therefore whatever our condition is and where we are with God in our wrath or our redemption based on our reconciliation.
Idolatry says “Look at me, what I got! Aren’t you impressed?!?”
Immorality has its own vibe of that sensual setup.
Individualism is being controlled by anger, deceit, malice and other narcissistic tendencies.
Dynamic depraved will either pull or push others. We sense that from everyone. And they sense ours.
Redemption, in various degrees, invites mercy and grace. This is the Gospel after all: the power or dynamic of God for salvation. In us, there will be a lack of a condemning spirit, not confused with gullibility and naïveté. It will permeate strength mingled with sensitivity. Like Jesus’ “vibe,” “Come unto me and I will give you rest, for my burden is light and my yoke is easy.” As we are transformed more and more into His image, the Imago Dei we were originally designed, we will take on His Dynamic. “For we have not been given the spirit of fear but of power.” Dunamis. Dynamic. Vibe.
Our dynamic, our vibe, is indicative of our relational style that reveals one’s awareness of a story redeemed. The way we come across is the fruit of how well we know our story and see Jesus’ fingerprints on each page. We are either victims getting back at the world or we are victimized but still seeing how God is good and using that, gifting us with his Balm of grace and purpose. The Gospel takes our pain and uses it in the lives of others as comfort (2 Cor. 1:3, 4). If we don’t open our eyes to His movement in our lives, we will be blind to what we have to offer out of our stories and will seek to take from others for our benefit at their expense. But as we see His work in our stories we will see how much we have to offer relationally and will begin to come across as loving, serving, and giving.
We are created by God. Most people would agree. There’s little disputing that. Even those who don’t believe don’t really take issue with it. It’s a relatively benign phrase. But what does it even mean and better yet, what do we as believers do with this knowledge? Moreso, what does it require of us?
The theology of place, person, and purpose that comes out of the Garden continues to astound me. And now especially, how it reveals to us as beings created by God, its respect to importance of each layer of our design.
It goes like this: as created by God we are first created human. Adam (and Eve), meaning “Red,” the color of clay, is how we are created from the earth. Not unimportant. In fact, it clues us into the idea that we are to take dominion over the land to till it and grow from it. God said it “was good.” We are “king of the hill.”
Secondly, then it gets even more good. Like the created animals we are sexual beings. Defined as “Ish” and “Ishla,” “Man” and “Woman, ” we are to “be fruitful and multiply.” By naming the animals we are empowered to have dominion over them. We are therefore “top dog.”
But now, now, it gets Very Good! Now we are designed as reflectors of Trinitarian Glory. Instead of being separate and above, we now have identity rooted in Another. This is our gendered identity, “Zakar” and “Neqibah,” “male” and “female.” In Hebrew these words refer to aspects that complement one another, complete one another. Translated as “To Remember” and “Vulnerable,” (literally, Bored Through), we “fit together.” Because when this happens, God as Trinity is reflected: two-in-one mirroring Three-in-One. Romans 1 states that if we add another combination it is exchanging “The Truth for The Lie,” in other words, “it ain’t happenin’.” Because this is where God exclaims it is now “Very good,” this gendered identity is the pinnacle of His creation, the most important. So, humanity: important. Sexuality: more important. Gender: most important.
The issue? There is a spiritual component to all three layers.
The world has stated the opposite to be their “truth.” Upside down. Humanity is now most important, “my body, my choice!” Sexuality is next: “I can do what I want sexually, you’re not the boss of me.” And gender? Well, “today male, tomorrow, female. Gender is ‘fluid.’” 71 gender identities. Least important.
So I asked what it requires? Being who you were designed to be means risking the ire of the world by believing in the “Very Good” Truth that God is worthy, worshipping appropriately, not depending upon futile and passing desire and feelings but that you actually be the gender God designed and behave accordingly. That you love those who do not believe with you but hope/pray they may.