I taught a homeschool co-op class today. In geography, I asked my class of seven and eight-year-olds a question I thought would be easy.
Me: “What country do we live in?”
Me: “No, kids…not our state…our country! What country do we live in?”
This whole concept of civic pride is new to me. I’m not a native Texan. In fact, I spent most of my growing-up years in Pennsylvania (a state which, as far as I know, has never even considered seceding from the union). Bumper stickers shouted, “You’ve got a friend in Pennsylvania!” But I never witnessed one that read, “I wasn’t born in Pennsylvania but I got here as fast as I could.” Nor have I ever seen a “Proud to be a Pennsylvanian” license plate holder. This zealous level of state allegiance just doesn’t exist.
It’s kind of like Texans are in this country but not of it.
Which reminds me of an expression Christians use a lot. We are to be “in the world” but not “of it” (John 17). Though we often identify ourselves by the place we are from–be it Texas, Hawaii, Kalamazoo, or Timbuktu–that’s not where our identity comes from. Our real home, our real kingdom, our true allegiance is to God’s kingdom and another world we’ve not yet seen.
We can identify with this world, but we don’t have to derive our identity from it.
This is really great news for those of us who wrestle our body image. If our identity comes from here–then we have a lot of work to do to keep up with culture’s standards. Everywhere we look we see the overt and covert messages that tell us we can’t be acceptable unless we have flat stomachs, round butts, full breasts, and shapely legs. Our identity then depends on how well we can meet the (impossible) standards of beauty placed before us.
But, if while living here–even in Texas– I can remember that my true identity comes from above, I am free to pledge more allegiance to God’s standards than the standards preached by Glamour magazine. I can rest knowing that even if it’s my breasts that are flat and my stomach that is full, I am still accepted. I am still loved. I am still treasured. I am a citizen of another kingdom, this earth is not my eternal home.
An old hymn sings, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in his wonderful face. Then the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.” The more we can believe, with Texan like zeal, that our true identities should derive from our status as daughters of God, the less time we will waste in the vain pursuit of American beauty.