Who ARE you?
I don’t know why that line from Alice in Wonderland always sticks with me, but it’s a good one to ponder. Who ARE you? When we are on the path to becoming clergy, we have to take the Myers-Briggs Personality Test. Actually, we have to take a series of tests on ethics and personality and go through a psychological evaluation before we can become an elder. It’s a whole day of testing. Literally eight hours of exams and questions and probes to discover who we are. And I discovered, according to Myers-Briggs, I am an ENFP. Extroversion, Intuition, Feeling, and Perceiving kind of guy. When I attended the year-long new church start cohort, they had us take a DISC assessment where it was discovered I was a high “D” person meaning I am outgoing and task oriented. Taking the assessment again for the conference, I was suddenly a high “I” meaning I was outgoing and a people person. Consistently I was definitely not reserved or compliant. A bunch of clergy in our conference are really into the Enneagram and love to be junior detectives trying to figure out “what you are.” I’ve been told I’m a 7 (The Enthusiast), a 2 (The Helper), a 3 (The Achiever), and even an 8 (The Challenger). My test results were all over the place. But after all of that, something Ian Morgan Cron said really spoke to me. He said, “Don’t let anyone tell you what they think you are. Don’t let the test tell you what it thinks you are. If you believe yourself to be a certain type of person, then you ARE that person.”
YOU are unique.
YOU are a child of God and are fearfully and wonderfully made. And no one can take that away from you. But people will try. Your entire life there will be people who try and tell you what you are and what you’re worth, but we need to remember THEY do not define us. Only God does that. And God thinks you’re wonderful. In Psalm 139, we find David singing a song about God’s hand in our creation and taking comfort in knowing God did not make us by mistake but instead his hand was in it from the beginning. We read in another section of the Bible that God SEES us for who we are and not what the world sees. When the prophet Samuel is looking for the next leader of Israel, Samuel sees Eliab who must have been tall, good-looking, and had the presence of a leader and he says to himself “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord (1 Samuel 16:6), but God warns him and says, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)” Your value does not rest on what other people think of you, but instead only what God thinks of you. As long as you make God proud, the world’s opinion means nothing. God knew what he was doing when he made you. You are a person of sacred worth.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
We need to be reminded of our self-worth because the most vulnerable among us are being attacked.
Not for something they’ve done. Not for a crime they’ve committed. But for simply BEING. The issue of the day seems to be gender identity or more specifically denying people the opportunity to be the person God created them to be. We have such narrow definitions of “man” and “woman” as if those labels actually mattered. The obsessive need to define who we are by gender identity is more a statement about our own insecurities than it is about how we were created. Why do we need labels anyway? What difference does it make other than to force us into black and white boxes? But life isn’t so simple is it? As much as we would like to make the world black and white, there are many shades of grey. While we read in Genesis that God made the day and the night we are not so naïve as to think it’s one or the other. There is dawn and dusk and twilight and solar eclipses. We read God created the land and the sea but what about icebergs or tundra or marshes? Are they land or sea or something in-between? God created plants and animals, but we know that microscopic organisms exist that qualify as neither one. I like the way Brenda Walker sums it up, “It is my conviction that God has created us male and female and everything in between, mirroring the diversity and variance that exists in all of creation.”
I’m confused about whether or not the political right believes parents have rights.
On the one hand, they claim they are protecting parent’s rights by enacting the “Don’t Say Gay” legislation in Florida. Somehow banning the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity is protecting parents’ rights? But then you’ve got Texas Gov. Greg Abbott directing the Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate for child abuse any family supporting a child who receives gender-affirming medical care. So parents have the right NOT to teach their kids about gender identity, but do NOT have the right to help them with it? With two swift kicks, the government is telling our transgendered kids they are not okay. To score political points, two governors are willing to sacrifice the well-being of transgendered kids and their families. What gigantic threat is being posed by transgendered children that we need to enact directives and legislation to stop it? With so many other problems going on where we can make a real difference – voting rights, gender equality, gun control, vaccination disinformation – we don’t need to invent problems that don’t exist. As a community of faith, we need to stand up for those without a voice. We need to be more proactive in our advocacy in support of other communities that are being attacked. We cannot call ourselves Christian and stand idly by while people around us are being persecuted and attacked simply for being who they are.
You do you.
Just be the person God created you to be. If with all your heart you try to do only two things – love God and love your neighbor – you are fulfilling the will of God. And that’s what matters. Eventually, the world will catch up, but don’t let that stop you from being YOU. The world will catch up. There was a time when you could not be a pastor if you were a woman. Because the Bible said so. Well, it took centuries, but we finally understood the Bible never said so and today many wonderful women have led people to faith in Christ. The idea that only a man could properly teach about faith in Christ is ludicrous. Sadly, there are still denominations out there that hold onto that antiquated belief. Today the same is true for the LGBTQ community. There are those even within the United Methodist Church with closed hearts and closed minds and closed doors toward the idea people in the LGBTQ community can be called to service in pastoral ministry. They claim it’s because the Bible said so. Once again they will find out they are wrong. In the meantime, we cannot allow other people to define our sense of self-worth. It halts us from being exactly who God created us to be.
Cassie and I are perfect for each other.
We aren’t perfect. Not by any means. But we are a good match. One of us likes to get our hands dirty and fix things. One of us likes to cook. One of us loves to work in the yard or change the garbage disposal. One of us likes to be the caretaker in the family. But it’s not the one society says it “should be.” And I love that. I love that Cassie enjoys being the fixer-upper around the house. I love to be the one who cooks the family meals. I love that Cassie is the one who likes to work in the yard. And I love that I had the chance to be a stay-at-home dad for the first few years of Emma’s life. A more amazing gift, I could never dream of. What I love most about Cassie is she has always been supportive of ME. Not who she wants me to be, but who I am. She challenges me to grow and improve, but still loves me both despite and because of my quirks. I hope I do the same. And I hope you do the same for those in your life, too. It reminds me of a poem from the show Free to Be, You and Me. It was my favorite poem growing up and I loved it so much I’ve memorized it.
My dog is a plumber, so he must be a boy,
Although I must tell you his favorite toy
Is a little play stove with pans and with pots
Which he really must like ‘cause he plays with it lots.
So perhaps he’s a girl, which kind of makes sense
Since he can’t throw a ball and he can’t climb a fence
But neither can dad and I know he’s a man
And mom is a woman and she drives a van!
Maybe the problem is trying to tell
Just what someone is by what he does well?
You are a person of sacred worth and my prayer for you during this time of Lent is that you reflect on that idea and take it to heart and recognize that those around you are also persons of sacred worth, too. Let’s treat each other like we matter. Because we do. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
 I don’t know if that’s a direct quote or a paraphrase, but something along those lines.
 From Brenda Walker’s blog: https://www.pastorbrendawalker.com/blog/bible-gender-identity