After the Truest Things About You there are many supportive TRUE Things About You.
Today is a longer and more in-depth reflection on some pretty significant things.
On Sunday, I referred to the American poet Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” where he says, “I am multitudes.” We are multitudes. We are complex. We have layers.
Do you remember the original movie Shrek? Shrek the Ogre meets Donkey (maybe one of my favorite animated characters EVER). Shrek says ogres are like onions. Before he explains his metaphor, Donkey is confused…
That’s not just ogres—it’s all of us. We all have layers. We have facets. We are complex, we are vast, we are mysterious, and sometimes, we are just confused about ourselves.
Today in your devotional resource you began to explore your layers. You began to discover what are the True Things About You.
Some of the True Things About You are things that ENDURE. They are constant. They don’t go away. Now, that list isn’t real long, but it is important. And a few things on the list may be up for discussion, so I need to make a qualifier. While I think these things endure, it is possible, with DRAMATIC and usually DRASTIC effort, to change these things.
ONE: Race and ethnicity endure. I am white, Caucasian, and of Germanic and English descent. Although, perhaps if I did the DNA genetics thing at Ancestry.com, I may find there are some other regions mixed in. But, no matter what that mix is, that mix remains ME.
Now, I may or may not like the fact that I am white. I may feel guilty for white privilege. Or I may feel proud about being white. I may be oblivious to being white. But that is part of my identity. I can’t go around to a group of blacks and pretend I am black. Rachel Dolezi tried to do just that. It made headlines when it was found out she was only pretending, and she was charged with two felonies for doing so. You can read her story here.
TWO: Gender endures. Okay, hot potato issue here. Give me some grace and space. I am talking about gender and not sexuality. I know there are opposing voices who believe gender is fluid. I think there is real confusion of categories on this question. I think there is also real confusion about SUBSTANCE, PERCEPTION, and IMAGE. It is one thing to be ontologically male or female and another whether one wants to be so or feels they are something they are not. At genetic, chromosomal levels the vast majority of humanity is male or female. Psychologically, sexually, and culturally everything may be very fluid.
But gender changes only with DRASTIC effort, if at all. So, for those who want to change their gender, they go through surgery for anatomical change. They go through hormonal therapy. They may go through speech therapy. They may go through other processes to move from being one gender to another, but notice how drastic this work is.
About a year ago, I read a journal where the entire issue was devoted to the stress of post-surgical sex change operations and the pain that is involved when the recipient discovers that even with all that drastic surgery they still struggle with gender identity. The journal also explored why the discussion of the perils of this surgery and post-surgery trauma is taboo. It is just not politically correct to talk about it. But that is another issue for another time (World Magazine, April 15, 2017).
Let’s say that for a small percentage of people, gender may not be enduring. For the vast majority it is.
THREE: Your family of origin remains your family of origin. You may not like your family. You may even hate your family, but it is still part of who you are. Our geographical and familial origins remain true. Now, we may move far away from both, but if someone asks where I was born and raised and I tell them Los Angeles, because I think that makes me much more intriguing than the truth of Dallastown, PA, then I am now living a false identity.
FOUR: Birth order endures. Firstborn, baby of the family, middle child, only child, one of a dozen, it is part of your identity. By the way, I am not making any particular claims about nurture vs. nature, or promoting a personality assessment dependent on birth order. I am just saying your identity (and story) includes where you are in the lineup.
FIVE: Fundamental personality endures. This one is a bit negotiable, however, there are enough studies on the genetic nature side of your personality to remind us that while personality can grow and adapt, for most of us there is a core part of personality that is pretty enduring, even if it is not perfectly enduring.
SIX: Core values and convictions, including religious ones, endure. At some point these things become strongly embedded in us and we in them. This is a developmental process, and once they are embedded in us change takes major effort. I have been a Christian for 62 years. For the first 18 years of my life it was nominal Christianity (weak, fragile, shallow). Then, after personal conversion to and relationship with Jesus (a dramatic process by the way), I began the journey of becoming Christian in my worldview. That worldview has endured for almost 45 years. Parts of it have changed. Theological beliefs have changed. But fundamentally, I have believed for 45 years that orthodox, historic, apostolic, Nicene Christianity is true.
To end this now lengthy explanation, I want to ask you three questions.
First: What happens in a society where some things that endure are prioritized and privileged, while other true things are not? Consider gender and race. For a long time it was a bonus to be a white male. What happens to those who are privileged and what happens to those who are NOT so privileged?
Second: What happens to a person who does not like or accept the True Things That Endure about them? A short answer is that they will live with disappointment, frustration, and confusion. They literally cannot get away from themselves. These things change only with drastic difficulty. Perhaps the life of Michael Jackson shows the drastic measures one must take to change the True Things That Endure.
Finally: What happens when a person elevates a True Thing that Endures to the status of the Truest Thing About Them? Hint: ideology, idolatry, racism, sexism, etc. And a lot of conflict between groups.
May you know and hold in the right estimation, the True Things About You That Endure.
Pastor Brian Rice