After recently visiting an art exhibit at which self-portraits were on display, I wondered what the self-portrait of a writer might look like. I knew that my beginner’s ability would not allow me to create a self-portrait that captured my outward appearance in the same detail as a photograph. So I anticipated using words to paint a picture of who I am--inside and out.
I sat down at my computer and stared at the blank canvas before me. I found words to describe my heart for the hurting and put them on the canvas; I typed words that describe my relational roles; and I included words that encapsulate what I do at my job and how I use my gifts and talents. I continued listing words until I thought the self-portrait looked complete. Upon standing back and glancing over the finished work, I noticed a pattern: my self-portrait included numerous titles.
After seeing all those titles, I questioned: “What would I look like without my titles?”
For example, if I lost my job, how would I describe myself? Would I be humble enough to admit that I was unemployed?
If I lost all of my family and friends and was no longer a daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, sister-in-law, or friend, how would I describe myself?
And if God chose to strip me of my talents and hobbies, would I know who I am?
Simply the thought of being stripped of all those titles made me feel naked, empty, and worthless. I wanted to cling to the original self-portrait and possessed no desire to recreate a self-portrait depicting me after the radical “titlectomy.”
But I know that I should not feel that way. I sensed that if Paul was present, he would repeat to me what he told the Corinthians:
Your flip and callous arrogance in these things bothers me. You pass it off as a small thing, but it’s anything but that. Yeast, too, is a “small thing,” but it works its way through a whole batch of bread dough pretty fast. So get rid of this “yeast.” Our true identity is flat and plain, not puffed up with the wrong kind of ingredient. The Messiah, our Passover Lamb, has already been sacrificed for the Passover meal, and we are the Unraised Bread part of the Feast. So let’s live out our part in the Feast, not as raised bread swollen with the yeast of evil, but as flat bread—simple, genuine, unpretentious. (1 Corinthians 5:6 - The Message)
In order to follow Paul’s advice and live detached from the titles that act as yeast in my life, I must recognize that those titles were never meant to satisfy me. By relying on titles to fulfill me, I am squeezing God out of the picture. I am making the self-portrait entirely about me and the empty, earthly titles that I temporarily hold. Such a self-portrait cannot be viewed as attractive because it has squeezed out the Light from which colors reflect.
However, if I allow the Light of the World to define me, rather than the world, the ultimate self-portrait can be revealed: one that contains a reflection of my Maker, who disregarded all titles and chose to refer to Himself as “I AM.”
“Precious Father, I struggle with allowing my identity in You to be enough and often turn to earthly titles for fulfillment. Help me to live out my God-created identity so that my self-portrait is a reflection of You. Amen.”