I was listening to a podcast recently where one of the panelists talked about identifying as non-binary. (Def. of non-binary – an umbrella term for gender identities that are neither male nor female—identities that are outside the gender binary.) The person speaking said that for them, neither male nor female felt like the right label and neither did male or female feel like the wrong label.
This got me thinking about all the labels we use for ourselves and others. Sometimes labels are helpful and life-giving. Sometimes they help us find our place or people who share something with us. Sometimes they help us understand ourselves better.
But then, there are times when labels are not helpful. I imagine all of us have, at one time or another, felt like a label someone else used for us wasn’t a good fit, or that a label we’ve used for ourselves might have fit at one time, but doesn’t any longer. Sometimes our labels can make us feel trapped or boxed in.
And that makes sense too. Each of us is a collection of qualities and traits that put together make us entirely unique. Humans aren’t the only ones for whom this is true. Each mountain, river, dog, bear, flower, tree, snowflake have qualities and traits that allow them to be grouped with others like them, but each also has unique qualities and traits. And because labels are meant to simplify, they just can’t ever get at all of who we are.
Which brings me to one of my favorite scripture moments. In Exodus 3:14, God says to Moses: “I AM WHO I AM.” It can feel like God is being at best mysterious and at worst purposely obtuse with this statement. It can seem as though God is being difficult.
But instead, I like to think that God knows there is no one label, definition, box that can fit all of who God is. God is who God is – changing, unique, rare, a compilation of contradictions and complements. God avoids any labels because we will each experience God differently, uniquely and if God puts labels on God-self then we may stop exploring and being open to new expressions and experiences of God.
We, of course, are not God, but sometimes it is good for us to step out of our labels and boxes and to appreciate the unique combination of things that make us, us. God created each of us uniquely and calls us good. What joy is that!
something Worth reading
by Irwin Keller
The biblical idea of a sabbath year is rare these days. Our modern culture is far more about constant production – not only for humans, but we also require constant production of animals and land. This piece by a Jewish rabbi is a great discussion on the idea of shmita – an agricultural sabbath year meant to happen every seventh year. This is in keeping with the 1/7 ratio of rest and restoration the bible puts forward as a spiritual practice for all aspects of our lives. Keller invites us to really consider how we create and cultivate lives which allow for rest – for ourselves, as well as for other people, creatures and the earth which sustains us.
something worth hearing
Great Big Story
In the story of Pentecost, people from all different backgrounds, who speak all different languages are suddenly able to understand each other. It is this beautiful vision of community – a rare moment of true understanding. And there are some who have lifted up a vision of having one global language for such understanding.
But while Pentecost is a beautiful vision, we know that each language is a unique representation of the insights and understandings different cultures have of the world. Language is an incredible gift of expression. And while it is a beautiful vision to imagine all of us being able to understand each other, part of the joy of humanity is the diverse understandings of the world, much of which we express in our language.
Linguists estimate there are currently 7000 languages being spoken on earth. About 50% of people speak 500 of those languages while the other 50% speak the other 6500. And languages are in danger of going extinct all the time. Each time we lose a language, we lose a particular expression of human life. This video is about one project working hard to record and keep the rarest languages alive.
something worth watching
The Jungle Diaries
It’s hard to decide if this video should be under “something worth watching” or “something worth hearing” because this is a video of one of the very rarest sounds in the world – the sound of millions of monarch butterflies. My family has enjoyed hatching butterflies the last few summers and it is truly a miracle each time we watch a butterfly emerge from it’s cocoon. But while we are very fortunate to have these beautiful creatures come to our region, we never get to see them in the incredible numbers that gather in Mexico. Watch and listen to this incredibly rare sound and sight!
something worth praying
Rather than a prayer of words, I invite you to pray this week on the rare and unique blessings in your life. What makes the people you love rare, special, unique? Not just that they are kind or funny, but what are the parts of them which make them truly them. And what do you see this week – in nature or your yard – that is unique or rare? The particular flower, the color of the sky, the way the moon looks. What is rare about you? What is your essence and uniqueness? Give thanks for all these things which may only be a part of this earth one time or a few times or for a short time.