As we walked by one of the small hidden lakes near home, I wondered how others would describe us. Were we two Americans out for a stroll? Did they see a Finn and a Californian walking together? Perhaps we were something else. I doubt there is any way of knowing.
In reflecting on our personal demographics as well as our conversation, I think any external description would have missed the point. European, American or Asian would miss much that defined us. Age, gender, and religious tags would not be informative. The more I think about it the more I find myself wanting to use Paul’s words; “The old labels we once used to identify ourselves—labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free—are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive.” (1 Corinthians 12.13b
Are we missing opportunities to define ourselves in ways that are more than the demographics or stereotypes? Are there new terms and tags that we can embrace that tell others as well as ourselves about a greater story? With a willingness to sound like an early sci-fi TV show, if asked, would we say that we are the compassionate-one? Perhaps we are life-helpers.
The observation that haunts me is not how others see me but how I see myself. What words or phrases do I use to define who I am. Do any of the labels we use make sense? Is it time for us to move beyond them? Are we missing the call to redefine who and what we are?
When I was a child, labels are strong, almost rigid meanings. Contemporary society has brought diversity as well as global branding. One might think the two are opposites however there is a case that our wants and desires are becoming more homogenous not less. Yesterday’s labels no longer shape how we behave. Christians are not necessarily compassionate. Buddhists are not always filled with peace.
Today represents an invitation to define our beings through actions and thought. It is an opportunity for more that can begin within each of us.