A version of this article appeared at the Intersect Project.
One of my goals when I look at my home and office is that I would one day become completely organized, down to the last item. (I know myself well enough to realize this goal is unlikely, but a girl can dream.) I have visions of walking into a room where there’s a place for everything, where everything is in its place, and where every container has that wonderful finishing touch—the label.
It’s hard to understand why labels are so attractive. I imagine it has something to do with the desire to group items into categories. We like to know exactly what we are dealing with. To see a row of boxes and immediately know there’s a place in the world specifically for plastic bags or furniture polish can give us a surprising sense of security.
We feel the same tendency with people. We like to label one another, and in many ways this is a good thing. We all have roles to play in the world, and proper and common nouns give us that sense of connection and understanding—it’s one reason we ask one another, “What do you do?”
This is a mom. This is a dad. This is a fireman. This is the mayor or the governor or the president. We like to know who we are dealing with, and even more, we like to know exactly who we are.
There is something right in that labeling. Those nouns and titles help us understand ourselves and one another, and they point to real and important roles in society and the family.
But we also tend to add to the labels, and to start seeking identity in descriptive words. We allow adjectives to group us into even smaller boxes—like the box that contains only red Legos. But when we do this, we miss out on the breadth that comes from celebrating multiple qualities, as well as the joy of locking arms with a diverse group of brothers and sisters.
Our search for identity can never stray too far from the truth that we were created in God’s image.
I’m 41 years old. My children are 14 and 12. I spend most days in my office and most evenings in my house helping with homework or at the pool as a swim mom. Last week—like many weeks—was pretty hectic. I prepped for some important meetings, participated in a few conference calls, worked on projects, and conducted several marathon email clean-outs.
I also incorporated carpool trips, a child’s dentist appointment, grocery stops, church gatherings, and time in my own kitchen. Some moments I felt like I lived in the car. I went from dawn to dusk with a few breaks, some highs and lows, and the occasional sleep interruption.
Our search for identity can never stray too far from the truth that we were created in God’s image, and we were all created to be workers.
It’s easy to say, “I’m a working mom.” I might say it with an amount of pride, or I might say it with an amount of insecurity. And some might say, “I don’t know how you do it.”
Around a dozen years ago, things looked a little different. I was 29. My children were 2 and less than 1. My daughter was in the throes of a chronic health condition that required two hours of intensive treatments each day. We lived in a small town 90 minutes away from her doctors, and we had a regular rotation of appointments.
My husband was a pastor with a limited staff and massive ministry responsibilities. On any given day, I would change diapers, clean messes, read books, administer wet-wrap therapy, or drive to the doctor’s office. I also incorporated several ministry responsibilities in my church, a book club at the town library, a few contract hours as a transcriptionist, and time in my own kitchen.
Some moments I felt like I lived in the car. I went from dawn to dusk with a few breaks, some highs and lows, and the (more than) occasional sleep interruption.
It’s easy to look and say, “I was a full-time mom.” I might say it with an amount of pride, or I might say it with an amount of insecurity. And some might have said, “I don’t know how you do it.”
The truth is, 10 years ago I was working. And I was a mom all the time. Last week I was working. And I was a mom all the time.
God has called us to be workers—all of us.
Our search for identity can never stray too far from the truth that we were created in God’s image, and that we were created to be workers. Even after sin shattered everything, God sent his Son to make us new creatures who would be sent on the mission he established.
When we bear his image, we don’t have to look at each other or in the mirror and say, “I don’t know how you do it.” Because we know the answer. God has given us all a mission and has given us each a unique calling. He has called us to be workers at home, in the marketplace, in churches and ministries, in the dentist’s office, and in the carpool line.
We all look different, but we fit into one box with one label: Sinners saved by grace and deployed to do his work.