“Stupid.” “Poor.” “Idiot.” “Liar.” Danisha listens as her peers yell out words in the Gathering Hall. Then she contributes her own: “ugly”. It is Monday night’s assembly and the speaker, Lydia, has asked students to shout out words that they’re defined by. Words they’ve adopted, words they’ve been called by people in their lives, words impressed on them by the world. Lydia writes the words on a mirror. These words represent the perceived identities of our students.
“These words become so loud, so bold,” Lydia explains, “that we no longer see ourselves in the reflection of the mirror. Instead, we see the words that have become our identity and we can no longer hear truth. We struggle to see that we’ve been created in God’s image, that we’re his sons and daughters, that we’re loved.”
JOSEPH’S COAT OF LOVE
Lydia continues by talking about Joseph, the Bible character whose story students are learning about this summer. Favored, Joseph wore the special decorated coat given to him by his father. For his brothers, the coat was a constant reminder that they were not like their brother. But for Joseph, it represented how God saw him, his identity from his Father. Joseph wasn’t concerned about what his brothers thought. He wasn’t thinking about how others saw him or the words he was called by them. The coat was a physical representation of being soaked in God’s love and truth.
Lydia shares that this is how God sees us, wrapped in a beautiful coat of love. We’re his children, we’ve got his fingerprints on us and he adores how he created us. But sometimes we let the words in the mirror color us. We remove the coat. This is what Danisha had experienced—she had begun to believe the lie that she was ugly and placed her identity in the labels slapped on her by the world.
The beautiful thing is that this is where Jesus meets us—in the middle of the mess, in the middle of the mirror. “Jesus isn’t waiting for us to get our life together. He doesn’t need us to erase a few words on our own,” Lydia explains. “Instead, he erases the words for us. When we invite Jesus into our life, he wipes us clean and clothes us with his beautiful coat of love.” Lydia wipes the mirror clean as a representation of what Jesus has done for us. Then students fill the mirror again, this time with words of truth, who God calls us.
The assembly ends and as students shuffle out of the Gathering Hall, a boy approaches Danisha. “I’m so sorry someone called you that word. It’s not true,” he says. Danisha smiles big. She is building a new identity rooted in God and his truth. Danisha is beginning to see herself as God sees her and the coat feels really good.
What coat do you wear? Where does your identity come from?