When I first learnt how to write my name it seems that I had a bit of a problem in comprehending that I was one person. I blame my parents. You see, they gave me a really long name! Claire-Anne Mary Charlton-Perkins. I would write my name as Claire-Anne and Mary Charlton-Perkins. I obviously thought there were enough names in that mouthful for two people.
Our identity is tied up in our name. I was thrilled when I was old enough to learn that I had been given a name from each of my grandmothers, Anne and Mary. I loved them both and to carry something of theirs is an honour.
I realised though when I had children, and they were old enough to have friends to play, that I was a different person. First, I was Dylan’s mom. I also became Mark’s mom. I remember an incident when my eldest son was at Pre-Primary. I had arrived to collect him with my youngest son in tow and started chatting to one of the teachers. My youngest ran off to play with his brother and friends. Apparently, there was a bit of a tussle with a group of boys and my youngest son. My youngest was winning the tussle and this didn’t go down well with the older boys. So, I had a stream of boys running towards me, complaining loudly and all calling out “Dylan’s Mom!”
I would even refer to other moms in this way. For the longest time Debbie was in my phone contacts list as ‘Debbie (Geoffrey’s mom)’. And the same applied to all the moms of my son’s friends.
Over the years I thought I’d regained my identity in some way. My son’s friends now call me Mrs Phelps (makes me feel very old!) or Aunty Claire (I still feel old) and some of the braver ones even call me Claire (I love that!).
And then I had coffee with a group of parishioners after church last week. We were chatting about the upcoming Pemads Pantomime, Aladdin. And, I mentioned that my youngest was in the panto and playing the role of Aladdin. (Yes, I am THAT mother – super proud!). One of the ladies at the table announced in a loud voice, “It’s Aladdin’s Mom”! I absolutely love that! I’ve been in giggles all week every time I think of it.
When I told my youngest, he thought it was fantastic that I was now being defined by my relationship to him. Both my sons regularly answer “Are you Claire’s son?” from people they don’t know. Me being Aladdin’s mom is a good change of perspective for my youngest.
I’ve been thinking about this all week. How we are defined, and define ourselves, by the role we have. Someone’s mother/father/brother/sister/wife/husband etc. Or, by the job we have. The problem with this, is that our jobs change, relationships can sour, our role in that relationship changes. How does this affect our sense of who we are?
What about if the first response to the question, “Who am I?” is different. What about if it’s, “I am a child of God.” How would that change the way we define ourselves? I believe it would make a huge difference.
It’s easy to base our identity on how people view us, how many degrees we have, what position we have, our possessions, the skills or talents we have, our roles or assignment. If we look at social media, we’ll see that people tend to share only the great things about themselves.
But, our identity isn’t based on what people think or how we view ourselves, our identity is founded in what God says about us. And, God loves each one of us.
I love The Message translation of Ephesians 1:5, “Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!)”
When I consider how much I love my sons, how proud I am of them, and then think about how much God loves us, I am overwhelmed. God loves with a depth that is beyond our imagination and ability. He loves you that way.
And so, as proud as I am to be Aladdin’s mom (and I’m really proud), I’m humbled and overwhelmed to declare, I am a child of God. You too, are a child of God.
May this be how we define ourselves.
Your friend and rector,