Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Cute Doesn't Cut It

I have been thinking a lot about identity lately. I believe in identity. It is vitally important that we know who we are. As a Christian, I have a very specific understanding of identity. We are all beloved creations of an all-loving God. We were made carefully and intentionally and we were made good. We were made for a specific purpose: to care for and nurture the creation of which we are a part, to exude love in all circumstances. We are, most important, entirely dependent - on God and on each other. We were made for relationship.

The various societies in which we live have identities for us as well. Often these identities serve to control us or corral us or to help us fit into the whole. We are uncomfortable with differences because they lead to self-examination and we'd prefer not to look in the mirror.

While some of these outside identities are malicious and intentional, most of them come simply from tradition. "Boys have always played with trucks and girls have always been bad at math." These identities are passed down without much thought because they have become a part of who we are and how we define each other. We rarely stop to ask why they exist or from whence they came.

One of the things I appreciate most about Christian corporate worship is the sense of identity. Christians gather (or at least they should) to be reminded of who they really are. We tell each other the story of God to remind each other that we don't live in the story around us; our identity is not that which is imposed upon us, but that which satisfies our created purpose.

I've been thinking a lot about identity because my wife will soon give birth to our first child, a daughter. I was sort of hoping for a son - not because boys are better than girls or because society has told me that fathers are supposed to want sons, but simply because boys are familiar - I once was one. I felt more capable of helping a boy navigate the identities of the world and to find his place.

As I have journeyed through the impending arrival of a daughter, I realized that I am just as capable of helping her understand identity - not because I am intimately acquainted with the experience of girls, but because I am intimately acquainted with real identity and it's creator.

There have been a lot of labels and identities that continue to oppress and limit the way girls understand themselves and their connection to the world (it's the same with boys - just in ways that we've been conditioned to accept as "good"). It is part of my responsibility (or at least a responsibility I am taking on) to help remind her where her true identity lies.

My daughter is being born into a world of identities - one that says female adjectives are fragile and male adjectives are rugged; and the stories we tell re-enforce these perceptions. I want her to be what God has made her to be, not assuming the identity society has formed her to inhabit. I want her to be brave and confident and self-assured; I want her to be loved - because none of us has any higher identity than as lovers and receivers of love.

So when you see this awesome little child for the first time, please, by all means, call her cute and precious and beautiful, for that is what she is. But don't stop there. Call her strong and intelligent and curious and bold - for she is all of those things, too.

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