Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Our Productivity Does Not Define Us

9-1-1 Memorial, New York City
Yesterday in my Spiritual Formation class at Payne Seminary I told my students that a main emphasis in my church is on helping my people understand their identity in Christ. The Pauline idea of "in Christ" is used, with variations, 180 times in his letters. One could argue that Paul's central idea is what it means to have Christ the hope of glory in you.

God spoke to one of my students yesterday about reclaiming their true identity, and to not allow this world's values to define them. This is so important since the core question of the spiritual life is "Who do I belong to?" Whose am I?

One of the false ways we are tempted to measure our identities by is our productivity. Henri Nouwen, in Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit, writes: 

"A life without a quiet center easily becomes delusional. When we cling to the results of our actions as our only way of self-identification, we become possessive, defensive, and dependent on false identities. In the solitude of prayer we slowly unmask the illusion of our dependencies and possessiveness, and discover in the center of our own self that we are not what we can control or conquer but what is given to us from above to channel to others. In solitary prayer we become aware that our identity does not depend on what we have accomplished or possess, that our productivity does not define us, and that our worth is not the same as our usefulness." (P. 19)

I am in Christ. I am his "beloved" and he is mine. My worth is not the same as my usefulness, since I am God's child. My productivity, or lack thereof, does not define me. I am set free from the punishing, hierarchical honor-shame systems of my surrounding culture.