Identity is a tricky thing to understand. We all want to be someone; to be important or to belong. We are all searching for our place in the world we live in. We take cues from those around us about how we behave or what we are good at doing and assume this is our position…this is what I do…this is who I am. There is always a box that people will try to put us into. People like things to be organized and clearly defined…this goes here and that goes there. In some cases, we may just be a warm body for others to put a label on because they need someone to fill an empty place in their lives. There are many boxes that I’ve been put into without consideration of who I really was. I’m in the “baby of the family” box, the “little brother” box and the “mom’s favorite” box. I’ve been in the student, director, worship leader, and pastor boxes as well. I’ve been labeled stubborn, quiet, and a thinker…. among many other boxes of various sizes and shapes. And while the categorizations may have been accurate to a degree at certain times, they were never a complete picture of who I was or who I am.
I is incredibly easy for us to put people in a box and then pile onto them the expectations that correspond to that position. You fill a need in an organization or in someone’s life and for the rest of your tenure there you are that person. To be honest, we often place ourselves in a box of expectation as well. As a pastor a few years back, I was expected to know the Bible from cover to cover, be able to hear and understand the Word of the Lord, and ‘feel’ the Spirit move and know where He was going. It was expected that I sing the loudest in church, raise my hands the highest, cry on a whim and be there whenever the doors were open, (and most often to be the one opening them). And, according to these expectations I was judged. Judged by whether what I had to say or what I did lined up with what was expected rather than what was true, honest, and right. This is the problem with expectations – everyone has their own version of what should be, and very few agree on what is. When I was a pastor, there were certain expectations that I could not (would not) meet, and that meant me and my family stepping out of that box. It was a very difficult decision and a story that I have written of in “The Reason We Left” . For many, it is easier to just stay in the box we are put in and not deal with all the questions and criticism that come with leaving the confines of their expectations.
There is nothing wrong with boxes in general. There are many that I am in by choice. I am a husband and a father; I am a brother and a son, a teacher, advisor, and a handyman. I do my best in each of these roles and many would describe me using these words. But they do not provide a complete picture of who I am and neither do the boxes you’re in. Boldness requires that we step out of the boxes of expectation and into the reality of who we are. It is not easy, and I am not saying I’m good at stepping out, but we are not who everyone says we should be or could be…we are who the Good Lord says we are and will be. We are sinners saved by grace and destined for royalty. We have been redeemed and justified and are being sanctified. Our names are not written on a box on a shelf somewhere only opened when need or convenience arise. Our names are written in a book – a statement of whose we are and in whom we have life.