When someone asks you about yourself, what is the first thing you say? Maybe “I’m a mom,” or “I’m a Ravens fan.” When someone asks you what you do, how do you respond? Do you give them your job title or your favorite hobby?  When someone asks you who you are, do you identify with your ethnic group or social status? That was the case for me.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what “identity” means this year. As we’ve come to (what seems to be) the other side of a global pandemic, many of us have reevaluated the hobbies we enjoy, the people we spend time with, and our work environments. These aspects of our lives and so many others are what we often decide to make our identity.

This month is Hispanic Heritage Month. As a white man with a Brazilian mother, I have struggled with my identity for much of my life. I didn’t feel Brazilian and all the things being Brazilian meant in my head, but I didn’t feel American and all the things being American meant in my head either. While Brazilians aren’t Hispanic, i.e. Spanish speaking, we are Latino, i.e. from Latin America. I remember there was one Sunday during Hispanic Heritage Month when I was asked to play with the worship band and I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to wear my Brazil jersey on stage because I am not Hispanic. Does my family history “qualify” for celebration this month? I mean, I don’t even know what box to check on demographic surveys sometimes! Do I click the button for

  • White (not Hispanic or Latino)
    • or
  • Two or more races
    • or
  • White
    • And then a little check box for ☑️ (Hispanic or Latino)
    • or maybe just
  • Other

I hated when other kids would say I was white because I felt like I was more than what I understood to mean “white.” For a while, people would even think I was Jewish because of my long curly hair (but shaving my head took care of that). I ascribed so much of my identity to what other people thought of me or saw me as. When it came down to it, I didn’t know who I was at all. Why did I care so much?

As I grew older, I realized that I was looking for something –  anything –  that I could use to identify myself. I pretended that I loved soccer; I learned how to play an instrument; I took any odd job I could –  all because I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted to do. This is where the beauty of Jesus’ relationship with the lost came in. 

There is something about being in a moment of weakness that brings surrender. Luke 15 is full of parables of Jesus’ compassion for the lost – the lost sheep, the lost coin, and of course, the lost son. The ultimate release of my expectations and frustrations brought about a time in my life when I let God mold me how He saw fit, not how I wanted to be molded.

If we claim to be Christians, that is, to be like Christ, then our ultimate goal and identity needs to be found in Him. 1 John 3 (ESV) says

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God.”

There it is! My identity isn’t in the things of this world, the type of shoes I wear, or the amount of money in my bank account. All of these things change and blow away with the wind. My identity is found in the One who made me and He is unchanging. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Sometimes we can make things much more complicated than they are. Yes, we live in the world and therefore will always have to deal with the systems and structures of this world, but we’re called for more. We’re not called to be brand ambassadors for Nike or our country’s colors. 1 Corinthians 5:20 says that we are ambassadors for Christ. First and foremost we should lean on and lean into the identity of the One who we model our lives after – to be like Him, to love like Him, to worship like Him, and to walk like Him.

Bridgeway, I pray that we continue to submit to our church’s vision statement – to be a multicultural body of fully devoted followers of Christ moving forward in unity & love to reach our community, our culture & our world for Jesus Christ. Let us celebrate our individuality and what makes us unique because that is how God made us, but let us also find our ultimate identity in Him, not the things of this world. The individuality of our humanity is not a contradiction to the unity we have as children of God! Humans are complicated and messy, but let us continue to press toward the goal of being Gracists, honoring our brothers and sisters, and ultimately, our Heavenly Father.

If you want to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with me and our multicultural Bridgeway family, we’d like to invite you to Latin Night on October 6th, 2023. This free event will be a great time of connection and a chance to invite your friends and family to Come Home to Bridgeway.

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