Last August we attended the annual Family Camp that my husband’s employer hosted for it’s seventh, and potentially final year. It was a wonderful gathering of believers in a small rustic campground designed for reunions and kid’s summer camps here in the Pacific Northwest. Technically it was right off the freeway and ten minutes from a Costco and Walmart Supercenter but once you entered the wooded, lake-adjacent property, nature seemed to insulate us from the world outside and transport everyone to a place of quiet rest. We have dozens of wonderful memories of camp, and the starry-nights around the bonfire conversing and connecting with Christians from all over North America.
One mom whom I’d introduced myself to was chatting with a group of other mothers during our post-breakfast ritual of watching the littlest kids play on the playground. She was from the Southwest and had maybe 5 or 6 kids, and had found the camp after one of our mutual friends had mentioned the annual get-together to her. I told her that my husband was helping organize the camp, and his name was Caleb.
“OH!” she replied now as if she knew me. “You’re Caleb’s wife.”
What Really Defines Me
The woman I was talking to now had a renewed interest in talking to me and had a list of questions and topics to discuss, about his show and the ministry he works for, which I love to discuss with people and fuels further discussion about our lives and families. But it sticks with people, especially since my name is hard to say. I will probably forever be known to her and her family as, “Caleb’s wife,” or “Ben and Calie’s mom.” Sometimes it seems like the least likely moniker to many families I meet is my actual name.
And to be honest, I do it to myself too. When I meet people my labels most frequently are, “I’m a stay at home mom,” or “I’m a homeschool mom.” When a barista asks for my name I’ll usually say my son’s name, Ben, in an effort to simplify the barista’s job and avoid spelling and inevitably re-spelling my name. Oh, the things I’ve seen written on my Starbucks cups when I say Lacacia… But in a generation that seems to be more and more focused on how we identify ourselves, how (if at all) do our self-imposed labels stand in the way of how we see others or what the Lord has called us to be?
Mistaking My Season for Myself
While those descriptions are sometimes helpful, clarifying, or even potentially divisive here in this world, we shouldn’t mistake them as our actual selves. We are individuals called to be one body in Messiah and that should be our major self-identifier. It should be preeminent when we meet other Christians. When we correctly identify as equals in our sinful nature and our equivalent need for salvation, we are on an even plane in the Body. We can see each other in the light of Grace that other individuals deserve no more than we do, they were just as blessed to be called to Messiah as ourselves. By God’s grace, when we meet one another as equals we give the gift to not be solely identified by our worldly position or lack thereof, our status or obscurity, our family membership or singleness.
“…for we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” (Romans 12:6)
Since that experience at camp when I meet people, especially women, I’ve consciously made the effort to remember them by their first names and not their kid’s names, or family name or husband’s name. Names are incredibly powerful and it helps to remember that God knows each of us by our names. They are individuals united in the Body of Christ, just as I am.
While I am Ben and Calie’s mom, I was me even before them nor am I defined by the children we’ve lost. I am Caleb’s wife, but as the scriptures brilliantly illuminate that will end with his or my death. I am an American, but according to Philippians 3:20 my eternal citizenship is in heaven. Earthly labels are helpful tools on my path of life but they are temporary. I am something more permanent than Caleb’s wife or Ben’s mom or a homeschool mom, just as you are more than a teacher, mom or daughter of so-and-so. We are daughters of the Reigning King and sisters to all other believers, and we need to remember our real identity every day in order to love and humbly serve just as Christ did and does, every day.