(This article was written in memory of my dear mother Sudie M. Brewington,“Honeybee,” who went to her eternal home on Tuesday, January 14, 2014.)
I am a daughter, a sister, an aunt, and each of these identities has shaped my life, but none of these contain me. I am Milley. I am Christian. I am a child of God. That is my true identity and all the others grow out of it. Each of you have your own list of roles. Most of you are children and parents, but like me, you are God’s child first. That is no role. That is who you most truly are. That is where your peace and security lie. When you know that — when you have learned the truth of it in your heart as well as your head — then chances are that you will not be swallowed up by an intact family whose love has a little too much control in it. In both cases, knowing your true identity can make all the difference. It can help save your life. Change can challenge our own identities, time and experience often shift our perspectives about the identities of others, too. But there’s a more important perspective shift about identity that Jesus offers.
Jesus once offered two women an escape from their earthbound viewpoints. Yes, you know it — I’m going to drag out our poster girls, Mary and Martha. I won’t offer you any time management tips from these sisters. I just want you to consider the perspective shift Jesus handed them all that day — men and women alike. In Luke’s account, Jesus had just blown up the issue of identity with the story of the Good Samaritan. A lawyer had challenged Him about the neighbor he must love as himself (Luke 10:29), and Jesus gave him a merciful Samaritan, a despised ethnic group living nearby. Then “as they went on their way,” Jesus led them to the home of Martha and Mary. Martha immediately went into high gear with the work of hosting Jesus and His disciples. But Mary sat at His feet with the men, listening to Jesus instructing His disciples. Unlike most rabbis of His time, Jesus not only allowed a woman to learn the Scriptures, He also told everyone present that this was the wisest thing Mary could do —“Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10: 42).
No husbands were mentioned for either of these women. No children were mentioned, either. Perhaps they had them once. Perhaps they would have them in the future. No mention was made of their social status, either by wealth or social connections, or job skills. But their one identity that was most important was the one that would exist forever — a follower of Christ.
This identity we need to affirm among ourselves, not the labels that come with the kind of labor we do. As Christians, we’re to be grounded in this identity, even as we add other roles and ways to express that identity in relationship to others. We might have an interesting job for a season. We might be married for a season. We might have children at home for a season. But those things can be taken away from us or never given to us at all. They are gifts for this life only. Jesus has promised that if we choose to sit at His feet, we have made the best choice of all. We will inherit the better portion, that which will never be taken away — a relationship with God, His Word, and the promise of eternal rewards and life with Him in heaven.
In one simple sentence, Jesus shifts our earthbound perspectives and takes us high above our daily lives to see the importance of being His disciple.