Six months ago, we moved across the country. As a stay-at-home mom, this move opened a lot of opportunities for me. To top that off, my youngest will be entering school this fall, and all of a sudden I am inundated with the possibilities!
Do I continue to stay home?
Do I get a job? Part time? Full time?
Do I volunteer?
How many places can I volunteer at? There are so many options!
And soon, I will have so much time to explore those options.
Oh, it’s such an exciting time!
After awhile, I noticed that I was having such a great time exploring these possibilities that I was spending more time daydreaming about what I could do with my time instead of paying attention to what was actually going on around me.
I spent more time imagining the fruitful ways I could spend my time instead of spending my time in a fruitful manner. I ignored the actual life I was living in favor of exploring possibilities for a not-so-distant future.
Now, to put any plans in action, it is important to set goals and to contemplate changes. We get stuck in ruts if we don’t do that.
But, in this instance, was I contemplating changes, or letting these opportunities be my means of escapism?
Yes, I have opportunities in the not-so-distant future, but today I have the opportunities to love my children, my husband, my friends, and my neighbors. Am I doing that well?
This winter, I participated in a Christ Renews His Parish retreat. When sharing at the end of the retreat, many of the participants found themselves with a fresh list of things they wanted to do after the retreat — more prayer, more involvement in their parishes. Those are great ideas to walk away with!
However, during the course of the retreat, I felt the phrase “to be” as a repeated refrain. These new plans I have, the ways we define ourselves by what we do, it all seemed a bit like running around in a circle. Instead of defining myself by what I do, I felt the overwhelming urge to sit back and focus on who I am.
As one participant said, “We’re not defined by what we do, but by whose we are.”
By making such a major move so recently, I felt that much of my identity was left behind in that move. Perhaps I built my identity around where I was and what I did rather than who I am.
Better yet, I could build my identity around whose I am!
Who do I belong to and how does that awareness affect my identity?
All of a sudden, the specifics of what I do become mere details, not really worth building an identity on.
Given the abrupt halt of our usual activities, thanks to COVID-19, a lot of us might be spending more time than usual on social media. I’ve noticed this in myself, and I notice that it isn’t a good thing.
On social media, we have the tendency to take the labels that define who we are (“I am Catholic.” “I am conservative.” “I am liberal.”). Then we use those labels to divide ourselves and the rest of the world into camps. If we were out doing things (or staying in and doing things) we would find ourselves in close contact with people in different camps. We may have different beliefs. But we often have the same interests. We do have some common ground.
Unfortunately, that common ground dissolves when we’re not actively doing things together. It’s hard to see our similarities when starting at an emotion-charged screen.
Bring It Together
We are not defined by what we do.
We are not defined by our labels.
Even more than who we are, it is whose we are that matters.
When we start to see ourselves in the light of “whose we are” our labels and our activities lose their importance. When we see ourselves in the light of “whose we are,” then we also need to turn our focus and see others by who they belong to, too.
Just as I am a child of God, so is that grouchy neighbor down the street.
Just as I am a child of God, so is that troll on Facebook whose comments I can’t stand.
Just as I am a child of God, so is everyone else, whether I understand them or not.
Whether we’re still quarantined or getting out and seeing people in real life again, we need to break through the glare of the screen.
We need to find our common identity.
We need to realize that we are all children of God.
God can defend himself.
He told us to love one another.
Are we doing that?
Copyright 2020 Jill Michelle Douglas