The Northumbrians did it again today. The reading this morning from the Finan Portion hits it on the head. I was mentoring a leader in our order – one son to take over this present community as we launch two more communities. He comes from good pedigree, worked hard to earn a defined identity. Many of us can identify, empathize and know that feeling. We also know the feeling of defining ourselves according to it – giving ourselves worth, respect, value even amongst and over others. In our own relating with God, our own spiritual formation to emulate the Christ (…He became nothing and obedient…) we wrestle this pseudo self worth. Hear their words:
“If someone really does not care whether they live or die it is hard to threaten them. If our identity lies in whose we are, and not just who we are, then even loss of reputation will only be a temporary setback. The need to be some one, to have clout, to command respect, to have prestige or position, these are shackles every bit as strong as those of materialism.
To be seen as holy, or spiritually mature, someone of depth, having a quiet authority: are these not also ambitions, or bolsters of out status?
If we can only reach the true poverty and yieldedness of not ‘needing to be’ anything (even a humble nothing), then we will truly be invisible. We will be unable to be bought by any pressure.”
Their words are so wise. When we can’t be bought, or as I shared this morning with my charge, when we are not indebted to, or held captive by these needs, this need to have identity, then we’re free. When we lose them, and it does not cause loss in our heart, our identity, our self worth, what we need – then there is freedom.
God’s Word often exhorts us to be known for what we do, not what we have, or what titles (who we are)…but the heart as evidenced by our good works define us. Proverbs and psalms address the character of God’s looking at the heart, not the outside of a person as the true measure. [God discerns the heart – Matthew 5.8; we are to emulate Christ – Philippians 2.5ff].
I note especially the middle paragraph. If you are reading this, you probably are a leaders wrestling mission and Kingdom in a post-Christian world. You want to serve and identify with Jesus’ life here on earth. We can in counter-balance to the Christendom pastor want to be known for our humble, quiet authority and posture – being more spiritually mature and ahead of our peers.
Instead, may we be living sacrifices, no self defined identity of this world’s, only His approval. May the saints ahead of us be our example; Mother Teresa, St Nicholas, St Patrick, St Francis, St Columba, St Martin, St Agnes and the saints today – the new friars; the poor Claires, the sisters of mercy, the Catholic Lay Workers, the Salvation Army’s Addiction ministries, the Servants of the Poor, InnerCHANGE, and a HOST of others. May our reward be hearing Him say, “Good and faithful servant”. May our identity be His – knowing that the world will laugh, mock, persecute, disrespect, indict, malign and dismiss us according to their value system and world view. And if they don’t do these things… then maybe…