My husband, Mac, has been interested in learning more about his ancestry for several years. His father died when he was a baby. So, he never had a chance to know him or hear his stories.
His mother didn’t share what she knew; she rarely spoke of his father. Whether it was self-protection or lack of knowledge, he could never decipher.
Yet, he wanted to learn more about his background and the history that shaped his life.
For his birthday, I purchased a DNA kit and database membership from one of the many DNA analysis companies. He read the disclaimers and instructions, collected his sample, and shipped it off.
Soon he would receive his analysis opening the door to his past. Painting the picture he hoped would fill in the empty spaces left by his father’s passing and his mother’s silence.
Several weeks after sending the sample, an email arrived. The big day had come; all that he had been told about his family would soon be confirmed. The door unlocked to unknown uncles, aunts, and cousins. The doors opened to undiscovered truths surrounding the family stories, so much anticipation and now…
He worked for months putting together his family tree. Discovering distant cousins, clearing up misinformation, and yes finding some answers to the missing pieces left from the family legends.
Then one afternoon he walked into my office and announced, very confidently, that he was going to start researching my side of the family tree. He needed to do this because his tree would not be complete unless he included my family. Yes, he is a sweetheart!
So this is where this beautiful “in search of family” story takes an interesting twist.
My family was small, mom, dad, brother, and sister. That’s all, well unless you count fur and feather babies. Then my family exponentially multiplies.
My parents were oddly quiet about our family history. I knew my mom had a sister but that was it. My father had dark skin and we were told our grandfather was Chinese, grandmother African American, and great grandmother Native American. My mother was light-skinned, creole (African American and French). That’s what we knew – that was the history. So, how I had defined myself, the image I created, was based on this small amount of information.
A few weeks after announcing he was going to start working on my family tree, Mac came back to my office. This time not looking as confident as previous, he shared that he had found birth information for my maternal grandparents, aunt, her husband, and family. I was so excited but was a little confused, he didn’t seem excited. So I asked, “you don’t seem excited – what’s up”? His response – “your mother is not creole and I started looking into your father’s history. Dad isn’t part Native American”.
So, the stories told and what was found through birth records and census data did not match. The history I had constructed as a young woman, my family identity all became obsolete with a simple search through an ancestry database.
I have to admit I was surprised, confused, and a little frustrated by this information. Mac double-checked his findings several times making certain there were no mistakes. The evidence is certain, I am not who I thought I was!
What do you do when your personal identity and definition no longer match the truth?
What happens when how you define yourself, the identity placed on you by the world and God’s definition becomes a clear mismatch? Whose identity and definition do we adopt, who do you trust?
We tend to define ourselves by our family history, the stories we are told, and as we grow up, we refine those definitions by our current life experiences, what we have accomplished, what we have acquired, our education, our titles – married, single, mom, MD, Ph.D.
The world will categorize us by our ethnicity, our economic status, by our beliefs, by our preferences.
Well, He uses a completely different approach to defining His creation, giving us identity.
God defines us by what He was willing to sacrifice. He defines us by remembering His son Jesus hanging on a cross, dying for us.
(18) For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. (19) It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. (20) God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but now in these last days, he has been revealed for your sake.
1 Peter 1:18-20 New Living Translation (NLT)
God defines us as priceless and valuable.
Sisters, we often tell ourselves we are what we do, what we accomplish, what we have.
The world will affirm that we are better if we have more, do more, but will also challenge us by categorizing us into simple buckets by race and status. Both of these approaches leave us with a mistaken identity.
We are more because Jesus is more.
Colossians 3:1-4 reassures us we are new creations, we have new lives, new identities when we come to trust in Jesus.
(1) Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. (2) Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (3) For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. (4) When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory… (10) and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
New International Version (NIV)
We have our identity wrapped in the likeness of Jesus. He tells us that when we place our trust in Him; we take on His image, our true identity. We become complete in Him.
Beloved, I encourage you don’t be deceived by the image you have created in your head. Please don’t rely on family history, personal accomplishments, or the world’s influence to define you, to define your value.
Please rely on the unshakable, unchanging truth from God,
(21) Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, (22) throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. (23) Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. (24) Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.
Ephesians 4:21-24 (NLT)
You are a new creation.
Created to be like God.
Created to be His image bearer.
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