Growing up, I had the deep privilege of consistently hearing who Jesus is. I heard Bible stories everyday and was branded with an identifier: you are a Christian. You are a child of God. I have no doubt that the greatest gift of my development was being taught the truth about the Bible. This was a deep privilege.
Privilege is funny, though, because it gives you everything but it also can make you blind.
It’s a sweet gift to be surrounded by God’s truth. It becomes second nature. It falls out of your mouth and resounds in your head, and it runs the risk of losing its freshness.
Three summers ago, when Scripture had become comfortable and I’d already started taking much of my life for granted, I spent some time in Armenia, a place with a long and fascinating history, marked with tragedy, suffering, and resilience. I visited ancient ruins and monasteries from the middle ages and was intrigued, inspired, and moved by a people who had centuries of history that included rich flourishing and also deep struggle including a devastating genocide and decades of oppression by the Soviet Union.
I was captivated by their deep sense of culture and solidarity. They knew who they were. They had endured much hardship together, but they also had a shared history. I realized that here, in the U.S., we have nothing like that. And I became a bit envious.
A year and a half ago we moved to DC. To be more specific, precisely one week after President Trump became our nation’s leader we moved to the belly of the political beast.
Sometimes I think I was crazy for moving here. By now we’ve made friends and found purpose and made a sweet little life, but I was most definitely delusional in my expectations of this place. Mostly, I completely discounted the political aspect of our new home. I thought it would be exciting and purposeful, and it has been, but it’s also been ripe with divergent opinions and opinionated superiority. If this is my story, I thought, I want no part of it.
I was fixated on the stories at my fingertips. I had a glimpse of a deep, rich, centuries-old cultural identity and I was overwhelmed by the challenge of living in a country without one, a community more concerned with individualism than solidarity.
I was shortsighted enough to think I lacked a story because of the setting I had been placed in, scraping the dirt under my feet and ignoring the foundation deep, deep under it, the one woven with the Biblical truth I’d been hearing ever since I was born. I had never forgotten them, but I was ignoring their cries to define me.
This summer my family went to Israel. We hiked everyday, we trekked the ancient paths where Elijah and Jesus and the Israelites would have walked, and something profound happened deep in my soul.
We stood where David killed Goliath, where God picked the smallest, scrawniest kid to kill a man nothing short of evil. We stared at the place where Jesus asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, and then made a covenant that through Abraham every nation would be blessed. We walked through the Sinai region, where God led his people out of Israel, where he invited them to fall in love with him again and reclaimed them as his chosen ones. Somehow, we saw this masterful, magnificent story unfold. A story I’d heard thousands of times and had never really appreciated, a story that in those days became the most beautiful story I’d ever heard.
And then, Romans 11:17, “But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree–some of the people of Israel–have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree.”
An invitation: So now you also receive the blessing God has promised.
This astounding story of love and determination and miracles, it was for me.
I’d never read the Bible this way before. I’d read it as an invitation to a relationship, but never an invitation to a covenant, to a story.
I’d felt like I had no real story, all the while casting off the one that was written precisely for me.
We live in a world with countless broken stories, don’t we? We live in a world where if you have one it’s inevitably tarnished and if you don’t you’re horrifyingly lonely. We live in a world with abuse, abandonment, hatred, and disease. We live in a world where the stories we do savor are moments from being shattered and loneliness creeps around the corner. We live in a world where we’re ashamed of our stories, maybe because of insecurity or maybe because of hurt and injustice. We live in a world where even if it looks like you have the most beautiful, lavish story you’re actually still full of brokenness — whether you admit it to everyone else or not.
But Jesus changes all that.
So when we say our identity is in Christ, it means we’re children of God. It means we’re valuable because God says we’re valuable.
It also means we’ve been written into an age-old, magnum opus story.
It means before the beginning of time you were created as part of a grand design.
It means that every little part of the Old Testament is meant to help you understand God’s love for you.
It means when Jesus came he wasn’t just coming to save you, but he came to be the living, breathing embodiment and fulfillment of all the promises God had made to the Israelites.
It means that God cares so much about you understanding his love for you that he rearranged time and space and the natural scientific order just so you could have stories to help you understand.
It means your life is not just a drop of sand in an hourglass but a very important piece of a story that is still being written.
It means, no matter how isolated or lonely or fragmented you feel, that you have a story. It’s a story that supersedes culture and language and ethnicity and gender and government and anything mortal. It’s the story that began all stories and that will last until the end of time.
And it’s yours.