One morning early in my third-grade year, I was out playing at recess when Tyson Graham came up to me and asked me if I would like to play football. I loved watching football and thought it would be an amazing time! I said “Sure”. But, the only reason Tyson asked me to play was because they just needed one more guy to keep the teams even so they could play. He didn’t see some untapped potential in me that he thought would make a great football player, he just needed a body with a pulse.
When we arrived over at the football field, I had one of the moments I will never forget, but I so wished I could. A boy named Jason, one of the cool kids said, “Not Will, We don’t want him to play.” It may not seem like much in the grand scheme of world affairs, especially if you don’t like sports, but for me, it was a crushing blow to hear someone say, “we don’t want you.”
It has been twenty-nine years since that early fall morning and the words of Jason are still a battle I face into. Am I defined by what other people say about me? For me it was some kid at Beacon Hill Elementary, but for many it is the words of a father or a coach, the sentiments of a mother or a teacher, sadly it can even be the response of a pastor, but all of us face the temptation of seeing our identity through the lens of the words others have spoken over us.
How do we find freedom from those words? For many of us, decades have passed since those words marked our souls. I have found that the greatest freedom comes from seeing myself through a new lens. In the past I saw myself through what other’s say, today I am learning to see myself through what Jesus says about me.
The first chapter of the book of Ephesians has become the baseline for my new found perspective. The author, the Apostle Paul, lays out a list of new adjectives that define me. I am chosen; I am adopted; I am redeemed; I am forgiven; I am blameless; I am blessed; I am loved; I am sealed and I am included in Christ. That last one really gets me, the kid they excluded from third-grade football is included by the Creator and Savior of the world. I would say that worked out pretty well for me in the end.