I had this startling revelation today.
Going on week 3 of teaching, I decided my room needed some decorations. Namely, I really wanted to put up things my kids made. Things that would challenge me to pray for them when I looked at them.
A goal I have in my art class is for it to be not only an outlet for creativity and artistic expression, but also a chance to encounter the living God and all of the beauty He creates and can create through us.
I found an activity on Pinterest that was the basis for my art class today. Also, we’ve totally done it in lifegroup.
Each student wrote their name at the top of a piece of paper. Then, on my cue, the papers were passed around the room and students wrote encouraging words about each other on the paper. Only encouraging words.
Once the students received their papers back, they took a sheet of colorful construction paper and wrote “I am…” at the top, then creatively filled in the space with identities spoken over them in whatever fonts, patterns, etc. that suited them.
I was pretty shocked at how quiet a group of 7th graders could be as they were writing these things…
One girl finally looked up at me after a while and said, “Ms. Gilliam…it’s really weird writing these things…saying “I am”…It sounds like I’m saying these things about myself.”
I just smiled.
As they finished, I asked if I could have them to hang on the wall behind my desk. Some were more hesitant than others, asking if I would make sure that if I did hang them up, that everyone who saw knew that what was written were things other people had said about them and not things they thought about themselves.
“Absolutely not,” I replied. “These ARE things you should think about yourself.”
It took a while to get the paper from one boy.
“But there are things on here that don’t describe me!” He insisted.
For a brief minute, I panicked that someone had written something negative. I glanced at his paper and asked, “Which ones are you talking about?”
He gestured to ones that said “kind” and “really sweet.” He said, “Yea, that’s not me.”
“Yes, it absolutely is you. And I’m hanging it on my wall.” I said.
When you’re 5, you believe everything that people say about you is true. You believe you’re beautiful. You believe that you really could be the next Robert Griffin III. There’s not a doubt in your mind. But this age…this middle school age I’m surrounded with…this is the age where everything changes. 11…12….13… suddenly, you start believing that there are some identities about you that have no way of being true. Insecurities creep in and you categorize yourself under words like “nerd” or “flirt.” Somehow the positive identities don’t stick and the negative ones become like little leeches, latching themselves onto you and refusing to let go.
That was my story. In 6th grade, I was labeled as a “flirt”. It fit. It was an easy identity to fall under. And I embraced it whole-heartedly. I had my label. I was a flirt and fell into that identity for the next 10 years of my life.
Unfortunately, it took until most of college to break that identity off and learn that my worth was not found in the attention I got from men, but in the identity placed on me from the King of kings.
Identity is absolutely critical. The Word of God is full of identities that God wants to speak over us and when we refuse to let Him label us as “victorious,” or “more than conquerors” or “seated in Heavenly places,” then we let the world label us. His Word is the only thing that triumphs and it’s the only thing that is the ultimate Truth.
Allow Him to speak identity over you. Or better yet, allow Him to speak identity over someone else THROUGH you.