Guest post by Shirley Bardone
It’s a favourite game around our dinner table. It started with Simon teasing one of the kids that he couldn’t remember who he was. This sort of thing usually results in wild protestations and many moans and groans, and this occasion was no different.
“I’m Isaac,” proclaims Simon.
Isaac protests, “No! You’re Papa!”
“No!!” (This was accompanied with a frustrated little fist-pump) “No, Papa! You’re Papa!”
“No, that’s Papa,” (Simon points at me).
Simon cracks up laughing. Suddenly the penny drops, and Isaac’s face breaks into a grin. He says, slowly, trying it out, “No, that’s not papa, that’s Isaac.” (Pointing at me.)
Simon asks, “Then who are you?”
Isaac thinks. “I’m…I’m…Mama!” (This seems a little too overwhelming) “No – no, I’m Evie.”
Evie screams, “Noooooo!!”
We all have a good laugh.
It’s amazing how intrigued the children are by this game of pretence and false identity. It messes with their heads in the most delightful way. We frequently play this at mealtimes, and now even Evie joins in. “Who am I?” is a very important question to a little person, and I’ve noticed that children seem to be aware from a very early age of this sense of self. I think Evie’s second word after “Mama” was “Mine!” (Probably a typical younger-sibling take on the world.)
The journey towards answering the question of who we are stretches far beyond childhood. And how we answer that question is crucial to our sense of wellbeing and fulfilment. Answered wrongly, we could spend our lives pigeon-holed into a wrong fit, or striving desperately to meet up to a standard that we can never attain.
Often the way society answers it is by looking at the things you have or do. Some of these things can be within our control, like what we spend our money on or choosing a career. But the problem is that none are guaranteed to last. We could get sick, lose our jobs, get robbed, or worse, we could lose the person we love.
This really came home to me when I left the “workplace” to become a stay-at-home mum when Isaac was born. Initially I felt euphoric at being able to spend all my time with my new baby, but soon the novelty wore off, and I found myself in a crisis. Not that I had forgotten who I was, but I didn’t see what I was doing as significant in society’s eyes.
It does seem quite counter-cultural in this highly competitive, capitalistic, ultra-feminist modern world, to step away from pursuing one’s own career and interests to do something which is much less glamorous and definitely does not require a university degree! (I used to joke despairingly to my mother in the early days of parenting that I should have studied Home Economics – a subject I despised at school).
Ironically, it was during this time that I was asked to give a talk on “Identity” at a church weekend-away. The time I spent praying, thinking and researching for the talk really cemented some of these things deep in my heart. In Psalm 139 it says, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made,” and in Romans 8:15, “you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’”
I realised something simple and yet deeply profound: I am a Child of God. When all is stripped away, I am His Daughter. Being God’s daughter means that, no matter what, I am loved. Deeply, unreservedly, fully, passionately. And I am accepted. I am exactly who he has made me to be, and everything about me has intrinsic worth, no matter what I am doing, or how many things I have.
It took me a long time, but slowly I came to a point where I realised the significance of investing my time and energy into raising our children full-time. I realised that the impact on their lives and therefore on the lives of everyone they come into contact with, would probably be the most important and most significant thing I would ever achieve.
At our recent students’ weekend-away Isaac was asked who his favourite super-hero was. He calmly and matter-of-factly stated, “Papa.” I wish we were all like this, because we do have a superhero heavenly Papa, one who is perfect and awesome and totally cool. And guess what? We’re His kids.