March 24: Finding our voice and identity
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As a kid I faced a daunting personal dilemma known as “indecision.” With two stubbornly opinionated older sisters dominating matters at home, I learned from an early age that to “agree” was a survival tactic. No use holding a dissenting opinion of my own if it would conflict with that one universal greater good: peaceful sister interactions! Right?
Wrong. Eventually I realized that this practice of giving up my own opinions actually eliminated my capacity to HAVE opinions at all. Genuine uncertainty followed me everywhere and any kind of decision-making threw me into paralysis-mode. My immediate reflex to questions directed at me was: “What do YOU think?” or “What would make YOU happy?” I used to believe this response was a type of selflessness and humility.
But this was not selflessness; it was a defense mechanism. In forgoing my honest opinions, I symbolically “hid my face” from the potential mocking and spitting of my peers. By doing so, I did not empower oppressed peoples in a true spirit of selflessness, but I allowed my identity to be trampled until even I could not recognize or respect it.
After acknowledging my “agreement reflex,” I began a journey to re-establish my identity. The first question I asked myself was “Who am I and what do I believe?” The next question: “What need I be afraid of, if I am grounded in God?”
Conflict? Accusations? Insults? Being disgraced? No problem! The fact is, we all face controversies in life. Conflict is inevitable in our families, churches and even on Mennonite college campuses. The Scripture passage for today reminds us that as life-long students, we are called to keep our ears open, listening to and learning from what God is saying in our midst. It also reminds us to ground our identities in God. We are all commissioned to stand firm on the solid platform of God’s love, and if we do this, we shall have nothing to fear.
SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 50:4-9a (NRSV)
The Lord God has given me
the tongue of a teacher,
that I may know how to sustain
the weary with a word.
Morning by morning he wakens —
wakens my ear
to listen as those who are taught.
The Lord God has opened my ear,
and I was not rebellious,
I did not turn backwards.
I gave my back to those who struck me,
and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;
I did not hide my face
from insult and spitting.
The Lord God helps me;
therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like flint,
and I know that I shall not be put to shame;
he who vindicates me is near.
Who will contend with me?
Let us stand up together.
Who are my adversaries?
Let them confront me.
It is the Lord God who helps me;
who will declare me guilty?
All of them will wear out like a garment;
the moth will eat them up.