I had the privilege this past weekend of attending a retreat with close to fifty other women from my church. I knew most of them only nominally, and several I had never even met.
When we introduce ourselves, we use descriptors and associations: I’m a preacher’s kid, Christopher’s wife, a mother of four, a writer, a bookseller, and so on. It’s necessary for us to use these kinds of labels to make ourselves identifiable to and distinguishable from each other. But there’s a vast difference between being able to identify someone, to tell her apart from someone else, and really knowing her. All of us have people in our world whose labels we can read, but we don’t truly know the person behind the labels.
It’s not hard for us to recognize the difference between merely being aware of another person’s name and actually knowing the person. But somehow it’s a lot easier for us to make the mistake with ourselves. We forget that none of the labels we wear fully defines us; that we are more than the sum of our jobs and activities and titles.
It’s a mistake I make in my own life over and over again. I get hung up on one aspect of the complexity of my personality and let it grow all out of proportion until I feel like that is the whole of who I am. I AM SOMEONE WHO LIVES WITH CLINICAL DEPRESSION, or I AM A CAREGIVER FOR AN ELDERLY RELATIVE. I need to be reminded, regularly, that the essence of who I am cannot be captured in a label or described in one simplistic phrase.
One part of my makeup is that I have always been a voracious reader, so naturally it is often through books that God sends me messages. Over the next few days, I’d like to examine some of the mistaken ways I sometimes see myself, and share a few favorite books and authors that help correct those misperceptions and remind me of who I really am.