I have been a faithful (borderline obsessive photo posting) facebook user since it pretty much started. Now, years later we have all these other forms of social media that I have yet to master and feel I will never be quite as efficient with. Social media has become another generation definer, hasn’t it? Facebook is so “old news” for teens. Instagram is the way to go for the younger generation (I think it still is at least??). And then there is Twitter that allows us to share every thought (or at least the conclusion of a series of them) on the web for all our selected friends to follow. I am not sure about why Instagram and not Facebook, what is the difference???? And as for Twitter, I manage to tweet during Giants games once a week but other than that I am not all that successful a tweeter. Then of course there is the thing that ties them all together, while uniting in one place all of the random thoughts and big events of life (cue drum roll) . . . the hashtag (some of you may know this as the number sign, #). I actually just presided over a wedding this past August where the bride and groom combined their last names to form the hashtag for their wedding: #ratberger will link you to all photos and postings related to the big day for Tess Rosenberger and Joffre Ratflicliffe.
Now if you are friends with me on facebook you know that I abuse the hashtag and intentionally use it incorrectly at an attempt to be humorously sarcastic. Me? No way! Weird, right??? The idea of the hashtag is to link thoughts/ideas/events/etc together with a collective word or phrase (Stacy Benner, the official hashtag overseer, is this roughly the idea????). An example is this: during a Giants games the hashtags might look like #NYG #GIANTS #GMEN. This connects anything said about the game to one place: the players, pictures, updates on the game, fan comments, and so on. So I do get it, and I am capable of using it correctly — I think. But still, I prefer to have fun and comment an entire thought through one super long hashtag, like this #hashtagsaretoofuntodowrongtodoright (making it near impossible to read them I know).
So here I am wondering, what is my hashtag for life? What links my life together? What pulls it all together? If I could have everything that I am link to one place, what “hashtag” would I use to do so? The first thing that comes to mind is that which consumes me most, being a mom. I am a pastor who is a mom. I am a wife, with 2 kids. I am a friend, with children. I am the sister with two daughters. I am the daughter with two grand-baby girls. Get it? I am a mom. I am incapable of having a conversation that lasts more than 15 minutes without mentioning my girls. I cannot go an entire day on Facebook without posting pics of my cuties (never used it as much as when I had baby girls). I am a mom . . . no matter what else I am . . . I am a mom. Are you feeling my point?
This identity as a mom is God-given, ordained, gifted to me, and affirmed in Scripture. In Genesis God commands us “to be fruitful and multiply.” And then when he sends the law to his people through Moses he places emphasis on the importance of parents when he mandates the following, “Honor your father and mother” (remember that 1 of only 10 commandments???). Proverbs also has a lot to say about children and their parents. The book of wisdom says,
“Let your father and mother be glad; let her who bore you rejoice . . . do not forsake your mother’s teaching.”
Paul even breaks it down for us in Ephesians, when he quotes Genesis and the ten commandments in admonishing the Christian household to be godly and a faithful witness to Christ, by defining roles and describing what a family of believers should look like.
So there is no doubt that my identify as a mom is Scriptural, God-given, and part of the image of God in me. But here is the thing I have been wrestling with, can it be the hashtag of my life? Is it? Should it be? Don’t get me wrong, being a mom is a top priority and a major role, but if it becomes the thing that links my life together, then what role does God play? And where does that leave me when I fail as a mother? What kind of weight does that place on me (that I am not designed to carry on my own)? What does it say about the source of my strength?
My identity as “mother” is woven through the fabric of my life without a doubt. But I hope the greater thread that strings it all together is Christ; the thread that holds me together and defines who I am at my core. I have become very aware that at times I find my identity in being a mom. I have learned this can be dangerous because when I mess up as a mom (which I do often) then I lose myself. I lose my confidence, my joy, my courage, my hope, and yes even who I am. It is in this dark place, of perceived failure, that I am forced toward the true light, not the light that I have created, but the light that shines brighter than any other – the light of Christ. You know those moments of failure as a mom can too easily define us. Which ones? Have your pick: losing my patience with a three year old for asking too many questions, getting upset with my 5 month old for not sleeping good enough, or breaking down in frustration over the 35 minute process dinner can be with a preschooler. It is such moments that bring me face to face with the importance of keeping my identity in Christ at the center of it all. It is the end of a day filled with mom mess-ups, when I am reminded to make my hashtag Jesus; to let Him link it all together: mom, wife, pastor, friend, sister, daughter, etc. It does not mean these roles are lessened. It does not mean they are not God-given. And it sure does not mean that they do not attribute to my identify. It simply means that they are not able to sustain me on their own, but must be webbed together by Jesus so that I am strong at my core.
“I can do all things through him who strengthens me”
The “him” in Philippians 4:13 is Jesus. It is not mother. Nor is it wife. Not even pastor. But it is Jesus – the one and only. The “all things” include being a mom, a wife, a friend, a sister, a daughter, and of course a pastor. But Paul reminds us clearly here that it is about Jesus and the strength he gives us. It means making Jesus my hashtag, because otherwise it just all falls apart.
And here is the most beautiful thing about #Jesus. Ready for it? When I hashtag, meaning link, all who I am and what I do through him, I do it better. Why? Because I am not doing it out of my own strength, like I so often attempt to do, but through His perfect and sustaining strength. I am depending on him to be a mom, a wife, a pastor, a friend . . .
But most importantly, I am defining who I am in Christ, instead of trying to create my own identity as a mother or any other role God has placed me in. So let’s give it a go. Ready? Here it is.
Taking my daughters to the park #Jesus Talking to my husband about our future #Jesus Preparing my sermon for Sunday #Jesus Spending time with my sisters #Jesus Leading a mission team to the DR #Jesus
Pastoral Counseling #Jesus Getting dinner ready while trying to entertain Adeline and soothe Maisie #Jesus Reminding myself I am not perfect, nor am I expected to do it all out of my own strength #Jesus
Now do you see the common thread? The one that holds it all together? My source of strength? The hashtag of my life?