To be honest, as I began writing this letter, my fingers (wanting to satisfy my first inclination) started with an introduction and typed out my name. Then, I recalled the opening letter of this issue of the Alumni Post, and I smiled at the irony. I suppose the idea of identity really is ingrained into our brains. We want to talk about who we are. Perhaps we find it less easy to talk about whose we are.
When I think about identity and labels, I think of the book “You are Special” by Max Lucado. The story follows a wooden boy named Punchinello. (No, his name is not Pinocchio.) This young protagonist lives in a village with other wooden people. The woodcarver, their creator, lives on a hill above the village.
The villagers have decided to express their opinions by giving each other stickers. When they want to express positive opinions or congratulate someone, they stick a star on that person. When they want to express negative opinions or belittle someone, they stick a dot on that person. Punchinello often finds himself covered in dots.
One day, the wooden boy meets a wooden lady named Lucia. He notices that, oddly enough, stickers do not stick to her. Some of the villagers admire her for having no dots, so they try to stick a star on her. Other villagers look down on her for having no stars, so they try to stick a dot on her. But both the dots and the stars simply fall off.
Punchinello wonders how this can be. Lucia tells him, “Oh, it’s easy. Every day I go to the workshop, and I sit with the woodcarver.”
What profound wisdom in such a simple statement. Do we sit every day with our Creator? If we did, perhaps the “stars” and “dots” that cling to us would lose some of their stickiness.
Philippians 3:7-12 calls us to this mindset: “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”
May we take hold of Christ and what He has for us. May we count all else as loss. May God help us, for we cannot do this in our own strength.
I greatly look forward to the future and to chairing this committee. Thank you to the excellent team that I serve with and the other leaders in Stoa who serve as well. Thank you to the alumni for participating in what this committee does. We always welcome your comments and questions.