Mom was a collector of knick-knacks – Hummel figurines, tiny spoons from different locations, blue and white china along with other miscellany – which is not unusual for women her age. She also held onto birthday cards, Christmas cards, and other personal letters. I am a collector, too. I collect milk glass and Margaret Furlong angels and a hundred other things. If I think I can reuse it or if it’s sentimental in some way, I will hoard it. Because of our tendency to let things collect, some folks think we are messy.
Truth be told, I am messy. I wish I weren’t, but I’m unlikely to change at this point. I can say I’m like Mom and pass some of it off on the “apple not falling far from the tree”, but it’s still something I have to own at this point.
Yesterday at church, the pastor was beginning his Lenten messages and spoke on the scripture “I am the Bread of Life.” He talked about how we are defined by our “I am” statements. “I am a mother.” “I am a teacher.” I started thinking about how I am defined: daughter, sister, wife, mother, teacher, musician, writer, gardener…
Daughter. Right now in my journey, I describe myself that way first. For many years, I was “Michael’s wife” or “Johnathan’s (or Jessica’s or Julia’s) mom” first in my description. Now I find my primary identity in being the (youngest) daughter. Lots of times, I simply say I’m the baby of my family.
Caregiver. Although that “I am” statement is often the last in a whole list of descriptive terms I use, the time I spend caregiving is more than I spend in any other activity except sleep. While all the other adjectives I listed that describe me are still an important part of my life, caregiving is primary in this season.
In the movie The Help, there is a precious line spoken into the life of a little girl by the housekeeper. She tells the little one, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” Words have power and parents and others teach us our identity. That’s how we learn to define ourselves.
Sunday’s sermon made me think of all the different ways I have labeled myself, sometimes using negative connotations: messy, a klutz, and loud. When Jesus labeled Himself, He pointed the way to the Father. As a child of God, shouldn’t I point the way to the Father, too? Doesn’t this hurting world need more of us pointing to the Father?
The next time someone asks who I am, I’m going to recognize who I am through the lens of how God sees me: a hot-mess of a child whom He loves. He has given me blessings that define me – parents, siblings, husband, children, students, friends – but my primary definition is in Him and through Him. I still am all those other identifying markers and those won’t change. However, I am His and because of that, I am going to try to reflect Him as I go about my life.
Mom and I aren’t messy. At least not in God’s eyes.