Contributed by Rev. Sandra Hasenauer. This is the first in a series of blog posts for Lent. Scripture readings for the first Sunday of Lent are Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7; Psalm 32; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11.
So many women in the world don’t know who they are. For many, their identities have actually been stripped away: their passports taken away, their names changed, moved from place to place quickly so they can’t form friendships or any sort of connection with others, turned into an object for others’ pleasure. For other women, their identities have been shaped by others in their lives—through emotional, financial, and physical control, these women learn to view themselves as less-than, as dependent, as worthless. And there are still other women whose identities are defined by culture or government: not a citizen, no rights, no voice, no protections. Even those women fortunate enough to live with certain freedoms and rights guaranteed, fortunate enough to be able to use their voice on their own behalf and the behalf of others, and fortunate enough to be in loving, respectful relationships, even they struggle with identities being defined by our society—are we too old to pay attention to? Do we fit societal standards of beauty? Do we believe and say and do the things the masses of society feel we should believe and say and do? Are we able to hang onto who we think we are in the face of who everyone else says we should be?
Our identities are assaulted by our own human weakness, by the human weakness of others, and by the collective human weakness that in many ways becomes institutionalized in society, in culture, and in governments.
Today is the first Sunday of Lent, a season of reflection. The Scriptures assigned to today in the Revised Common Lectionary—while on the surface seemingly about the need to resist temptation—actually drill down to questions about identity: Who do we think we are? Who are we created to be? Who are we in the eyes of God? Who are we in light of the crucifixion and resurrection?
Adam and Eve and the psalmist come into full realization of the frailty and weakness of our human nature. We sin. We err. We hide from God in shame and fear. And yet God wants us to be forgiven! God offers us the abundance of life through Jesus Christ that Paul writes about in Romans. God wants us to stand before God in all our human nakedness and vulnerability and say, “Here I am, God. I’m sorry. Forgive me and heal me.” And God—without even a moment’s hesitation—showers us with grace and mercy and we’re brought from our hiding into full relationship. Through God’s grace and mercy, we are restored to our full identity as God’s people.
How many women in the world need to hear that message of hope? How many need to be assured that they are beautifully created by God? How many need to hear that no one can tell them who they are except for God? How many need the joy, liberation, and abundant life God has shown us through the resurrection?
It is said that often Augustine would say to people to whom he was offering the communion bread and cup, “Receive who you are.” After they had eaten and drank, he would go on to say, “Now go and be who you have been called.” These words remind us that in the communion meal, we are once again affirmed in our identities as blessed children of God, and we are called to go out and live into that identity that God has given us as a gift through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
May we spend this season of Lent offering up our human frailty to God for healing and restoration, joyously embracing our identity as women of God, and seeking God’s vision for how to live out that identity in the world.
Receive who you are.
Go and be who you have been called.
Rev. Sandra Hasenauer serves as associate executive director of American Baptist Women’s Ministries. For more information about AB Women’s Ministries, visit www.abwministries.org.