Who We Are (A Guest Post By Julia Vanlandingham)

Who We Are

Hey everyone! My best friend Julia wrote an amazing essay which I posted on here a few months back, and… she’s done it again! I hope you enjoy this awesome guest essay. 🙂


Who are you? It’s an easy question, right? So simple: Who are you? My answer to this question most of the time sounds something like this, “I’m Julia, I’m 17 years old. I have four sisters and one brother. I also have one brother-in-law, one sister-in-law, and one baby niece. I LOVE mathematics, but I don’t like writing. I’m not that good at writing, because I have a very mathematical brain.” That may describe some aspects of me (some incorrectly, but we’ll get to that later), but does this answer really say who I am? I think not. This description say my name, my age, and my profession (or projected profession). This describes how others perceive me on my surface, but not really truly who I am.

The things we are passionate about, the activities and people we love, the experiences we have had: these are the things that shape us. However, what does that really mean? It means that as we grow older we change. The friends we have and the environment we live in will shape how we talk and act. The activities we participate in will either spark our interest in a certain field or scorch it. The people we love will change us in many ways. Whether it be that you pick your clothes up off the floor for them, or you mow the lawn everyday for them, it is a deviation from your normal behavior. So, people and events shape us, but is that what defines our identity? Are we simply the sum of all our actions?

Oftentimes we describe who we are based on what we do or what other people have told us we are. As an example, my whole life I have been told I was a bad writer. Now, let’s get something straight, at one point in time I was very bad at writing, but I worked hard and I have changed that. So, I always thought of myself as a bad writer. I thought that was one of the things that defined who I was. The longer I was told this, the more and more it was engrained in my mind that was me: Julia, the mathematician who can’t write.

I think that, in this case, the sum of all the parts is so much less than the whole. So, what is missing, what makes us a whole and not simply a sum of actions? Well, the answer is simple, but also so very hard to see at times: God. The missing factor is the Lord. This is what makes us who we are really, this is what defines us. First and foremost we are a child of the King. So, as I describe myself the biggest and most important part of who I am is not that I am a mathematician or that I have a big family, or that I once was not good a writing. It is that I have been saved by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. I have lived, died and been risen with him, and that is what makes me who I am.

So, we are not simply defined as what we do or who we know, there is so much more to each and every one of us. Oftentimes we do not take the time to get to know people deeply, to really get to know who they are. This leads us to see them as the sum of their actions. Often this can lead to misconceptions about people, and sometimes it can hurt that person deeply for a long time. When someone is told repeatedly that a certain characteristic defines them, they will eventually begin to believe it. They will start to tell themselves the same thing, and they may believe that is who they are. Once someone has told themselves that this thing defines them for long enough, it is hard to go back. It leaves a scar. One that most people can’t even see. One that maybe the person can’t even see themselves. It takes a long time and much help to see that this doesn’t define them.

So, whatever it is that you have been told defines you. Whatever you have told yourself defines you. Whatever you think you are bad at and that you just can not do that thing and it is going to hold you back. Forget it. That is not you. Do not let anyone else tell you who you are. Strive everyday to live your identity in Christ, the only thing that can never be taken from you.


I hope you enjoyed this amazing guest post! What are some ways we could learn to shape our identities in Christ? Let’s chat in the comments!

See you again soon. 🙂

Wednesday With Words: A Boiling Imagination

Today, I wanted to share this lovely quote from Francis Shaeffer’s He Is There And He Is Not Silent, a book which tackles the distortion of truth and goodness in our current culture, and shows how Christianity is the only viable option that can explain our world. This particular quote is extremely encouraging to me as an author and creative person, because, sometimes, Christians get caught up in this idea that we shouldn’t be creative, because it must be wrong somehow.

Creativity


On my reading list this week:

The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery: Another lesser-known novel by the author of Green Gables. It was on our shelf, and I am very good at not reading the things I probably should be reading (*cough, cough* The Mysterious Benedict Society *cough, cough*) so I thought I’d try it out. I’m only a chapter in, but it already promises to be very interesting.


As always, Wednesdays With Words is hosted by ladydusk.

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Wednesday with Words: An Act of the Will

NOTE: Sorry this post is late. I should have put this up yesterday, but I forgot, so, here goes…


At evening service in my church this Sunday, our pastor was talking about setting time apart to worship God on our own. I believe this is something I need to work on more, and I’ve been trying to read a chapter of A Young Woman After God’s Own Heart by Elizabeth George every evening since then, for a sort of devotional. I got this book almost a year ago (!), but I never finished it. I did find this wonderful quote the other day, though, and I really wanted to share it with you:

Love


Wednesday with Words is hosted by ladydusk.

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Wednesday with Words: The Truth and the Shadow

Wow. I can’t believe that it’s December already! It seems like just yesterday I started school again, and now I’ve finished several of my books… And, since it’s December, the Christmas month, I thought I’d share this quote from Athanasius’s On the Incarnation. In this part of the book, he is arguing against the assertions of the Jews that the Messiah has not yet come.

When did prophet and vision cease from Israel? Was it not when Christ came, the Holy One of holies? It is, in fact, a sign and notable proof of the coming of the Word that Jerusalem no longer stands, neither is prophet raised up nor vision revealed among them. And it is natural that it should be so, for when He that was signified had come, what need was there any longer of any so signify Him? And when the Truth had come, of what further need was there of the shadow?

Athanasius, On the Incarnation

Wednesday with Words is hosted by ladydusk.

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Magic. Mysticism. Message? Exposing the Christian Imagery of Doctor Strange

I’ll make no secret of it: I am a die-hard Marvel Cinematic Universe fan. So when Movieguide gave Marvel’s latest flick, Doctor Strange, a negative four in their review (which, in Movieguide-speak equals irredeemably bad/un-Christian) I had to raise an eyebrow. Movieguide is an amazing service, rating movies based not only on their quality but their morality. When you’re trying to be a discerning Christian moviegoer, this is super helpful. But sometimes, especially when looking at worldview, they can go a bit too far. This happened to me once before with a film called Tomorrow Land, which I ended up loving for precisely the reasons that Movieguide condemned it (I know that sounds strange, but it’s true. Read more about that in part of this post here). So my dad and I went to see the Doctor anyway, deciding to take it with a grain of salt.

I was completely shocked by this film, and for all the right reasons. Stunning visuals, a strong story, powerful acting, and, surprisingly enough, wonderful Christian imagery that Movieguide seems to have missed entirely. It’s time to look beneath the magic and discover some of the real messages of Doctor Strange. WARNING: Lots and lots of spoilers ahead. If you haven’t watched the movie, I recommend you go do that before continuing. It’ll be worth it. Hopefully. If I do my job right.

Doctor Steven Strange is an arrogant, wealthy neurosurgeon with more fancy watches than are really necessary and a penthouse apartment that Tony Stark would be proud of. When his hands are rendered almost useless by a horrible car accident, he loses the center of his life and everything he does: his career. He tries everything possible to get the use of his hands back, but every one of his seven procedures fail. He is left completely hopeless, until he discovers a man who was permanently paralyzed, and then suddenly was able to walk again. Steven follows the man’s clues to a strange building in Nepal, where he meets the Ancient One, a woman who has the power to bend time and space, and stay young for thousands of years. Steven must humble himself and learn these powers to ultimately confront Dormammu, a Satan-like being who seeks to conquer the multiverse and torture its inhabitants forever.

There is a strand of humility running through this entire movie, and it’s something I picked up on right away. While Movieguide touched on it very briefly, I see this idea as a very central one to the story, and to the message. Steven Strange starts off as an extraordinarily self-centered man. His greatest pride is his perfect track record. He won’t take a case if its ‘not treatable’, or the procedure will certainly fail. He would never do anything to ruin his reputation. He is the opposite of humble. But the injury of his hands pulls him down from his high tower. Suddenly, he can do nothing. He has lost his career, which meant everything to him. He has become obsolete. At first he tries every procedure he can, grasping for anything which might return him to his previous life. But nothing can help him.

That is, until he meets the Ancient One. Life has tried to bring him low, but he is still holding on to his pride. It is all he has. The Ancient One sees this, and knows he must become humbler still before she can help him.

Humility is despised in our culture. It is often connected with a Uriah Heap-like attitude, where we are ‘umble, sir, so very ‘umble, and pretend that we are worthless and grovel and scrape before everyone else in a way which only brings more attention to us. This kind of humility is a breed of egotism: we are worse than everyone else, and therefore better for admitting it, and we are the center of attention with all our bowing and scraping and ‘umbleness. The Christian kind of humility is a recognition that we are not in control, that we are not little gods. Steven Strange has an unconscious idea that he is the little god of his world, that he could, if he tried, really do anything. But he is pulled out of that fanciful throne by real life, and the brought lower still, until he is willing to sacrifice himself for the good of the world because he knows that he is not, and never was, the real Number One.

It is this sacrifice which reveals itself to me as true Christian imagery, as Steven confronts Dormammu, really something like the Devil, and just as terrifying and ruthless, and offers himself over and over to keep this monster from destroying the world. He wins in the end, of course, but he has undergone a great journey to come to the point where he ever could win. The Steven Strange at the beginning of the movie could not have defeated this Devil, not even with all the relics and magic in the world. He needed to be humble, and to be willing to sacrifice himself, to beat the bad guy.

Jesus was the most humble of all. He was God, but sank to the level of man and sacrificed himself to defeat the Devil. Yes, there is the magic and the mystical and the fantastical, but there is a parallel between Jesus’ story and that of Steven Strange, if I may say so without offending anyone’s sensibilities. And not only that, but Steven Strange also reflects the Christian life: we must be brought low and made humble in order to accept Jesus’ great gift to us. When we think we are on top of the world, we are sure that we need nothing but ourselves. But something, anything, may bring us to the realization that we are in need of something else.

I think that sometimes we do not look at the subtext. Doctor Strange is not a perfect film. There is not and never will be a ‘perfect’ film. It’s fun, fascinating, hilarious, magical. It’s got all the fantasy trimmings and beautiful images and tense plot that make a film fun to watch. It is not a precise, perfect allegory for the entire story of Jesus, or the entire Christian life. But last time I checked, no one said it had to be.