Identity

Life Story by Nick Gentry

Isaiah 43:1 NRSV
But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.

Who you are is not about you.
You are God’s, that’s who you are.
You are what results
when God cannot contain joy.
You can let go of everything,
your sorrows and joys, your suffering and triumphs,
your personality, your self-made self,
and just be God’s.
You are God’s, that’s who you are.
Steve Garnaas-Holmes, selection from the reflection Who You Are

The biggest and most common misunderstanding regarding Christianity is to see it as all about being good. All too often people think Christianity’s first (or only) proclamation is: “Be good.” This emphasis (which is not unknown even within Christian circles) implies that the practice of Christianity centers on will — on doing, and more specifically, doing “good.” In fact, though, the gospel primarily declares something entirely different. Christianity at its pulsating core proclaims: “Be loved.”
– Gregory S. Clapper, Living Your Heart’s Desire

Not because of who I am, but because of what You’ve done
Not because of what I’ve done, but because of who You are
I am a flower quickly fading, here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean, a vapor in the wind
Still You hear me when I’m calling
Lord, You catch me when I’m falling
You told me who I am, I am Yours
– selection from I am Yours by Casting Crowns

The fallen world says, “You are what you do.”  Adopting that value system immerses us in a performance-orientation where achievements, possessions, and appearances define us.  What others think of us (image) is what we work on all the time, in a kind of “never let them see you sweat” approach. The Gospel-oriented world says, “You do what you are.” Giving ourselves to this way puts us into a grace-orientation where relationships, servanthood, and integrity define us.  What God thinks of us (agape) is what we concentrate on all the time, in a kind of “always let them see you care” approach. In his classic poem “As Kingfishers Catch Fire,” Gerard Manley Hopkins described this Gospel-oriented life in these few words: ‘What I do is me, for that I came.’
– Steve Harper, Gospel Orientation

I imagine a series of concentric circles where everyone else sits at the epicenter and I roam the outer rim, struggling with an ongoing desire for entrance to the inside. When I fight my way in to the next stage of concentric circles, I find it wanting, and when I find it wanting, I’m forced back into a lesson that I’ll learn and relearn over a lifetime: my sense of identity and self worth have to derive not from some illusory inner circle but from the more enduring inner sanctum of faith.
Andrea Palpant Dilley, Be Thou My Vision

We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. – e.e. cummings

Ego is to the true self what a flashlight is to a spotlight. – John Bradshaw

It goes against the grain of our modern way of thinking, but one of the holiest responses we can make to life is, “I don’t know”—with the “I” meaning the knowledge perpetrated on us by the ego.  The “I” does not know, and even if it does, it doesn’t care. [about anything but self] – Steve Harper, Sapeintial Theology

Humility is the firm foundation upon which our spiritual life is built. Humility is not underestimating our worth or allowing ourselves to be defined by another. …
Humility invites us to say “no thank you” to being the center of our own universe. Humility is recognizing that we are God’s creation and allowing ourselves to be grounded in that truth. – Kathleen R. Flood

Colonialism is about power and conformity to a set of beliefs.
Gospel is about love and giving away power.
The Spirit affirms our uniqueness and giftings.
Empire conforms us into a particular image.
– Randy Woodley, Ask and Indigenous Theologian

1 Peter 2:9-10 (NRSV)
You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Beneath the world’s frantic cries,
the word persists.
“I love you. You are mine.”
– from the poem News by Steve Garnaas-Holmes

You are God – not me, not us;
help me to remember this simple fact each day.
You are the Center of creation – not me, not us;
help me to recognize my place within the orbit of your grace.
You are the Source of all life – not me, not us;
let me find in you my kinship with all creation.
–Sam Hamilton-Poore, Earth Gospel

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For an original hymn text on this topic entitled Be Still, Remember, click here

Click here for more of Nick Gentry’s incredible artwork.

For more information on the art, scripture translations and the use of this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

2 thoughts on “Identity

  1. Just wanted to say that I read your blog every week as I prepare my sermon and I always find something breathtaking here. This week I liked through to Steve Garnaas-Holmes’s stuff. WOW. Thanks so much for the work you do in this place.

    • Thanks so much for the encouragement Caela. It is a blessing to know the posts are helpful to you. Steve Garnaas-Holmes’ work is consistantly beautiful, faithful, and challenging in the best possible way. I subscribe to his blog and look forward to reading it. – Lisa <

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