define (verb) – 1. to state precisely the meaning of 2. to describe the nature, properties, or essential qualities of 3. to determine the boundary of extent of
Now that it’s been over seven years since I was declared cancer-free, not as many of my current friends know I’m a breast cancer survivor. It was a big, glaring part of my life in 2003 when I was diagnosed and for several years afterward but then began to fade from the forefront of my thoughts.
I received lots of thoughtful and encouraging notes and cards from friends during my recovery from surgery but one that still stands out in my mind was from a friend I hadn’t heard from in years. This friend had also battled cancer so her words carried extra weight. The phrase she wrote that stood out like neon lights was “This cancer does not define you.”
That was a huge comfort. It’s true, I’m a cancer survivor, but I’m a lot more than that.
When I worked for a special education school district as a teacher assistant, we were trained to refer to students and people in general who faced challenges in the politically correct way. I agree that political correctness can get out of hand and sometimes irritate me, but what we learned made sense. Instead of saying “autistic boy,” we were taught to say a “boy with autism.” Instead of saying “a learning disabled student,” we should say “a student with learning disabilities.”
Do you see the difference? I had the privilege of shadowing a boy with autism who was also brilliant, clever, funny, and loving. I worked with some boys who had learning disabilities but were also artistic, creative, kind, had great memories, and were smart about things other than reading and writing.
There’s more to each of those students than the challenges they face and it’s not fair to define them by those challenges, boxing them in or limiting them in the eyes of other people just by the way we address them. The crazy thing is we often fall into letting circumstances or personal issues define who we are in our own minds.
We are all spiritual creatures with souls. When our physical bodies give out our souls will live on, mysteriously immortal. We shouldn’t let one thing determine in our minds who we are as a whole person.
You are more than problems you face. You are more than a disease that infects your physical body and minimizes what you can do physically. You are more than limitations that you encounter, the temptations that ensnare you, whatever type they may be. God designed and created you just the way you are. He treasures you that way. He has a purpose for you and will carry it out if you just stay close to Him and trust Him.
That trouble, flaw, illness, bad habit, broken relationship, or fear you’re dealing with? It doesn’t define you. In fact, if you belong to Him you’re a new creation, given new identity by Jesus. A song we used to sing in church comes to mind with these encouraging words:
I will change your name
You shall no longer be called
Lonely or afraid
I will change your name
Your new name shall be
Faithfulness, friend of God
One who seeks my face.
Ask God to remind you who you really are – the breathtakingly beautiful complete picture of unique, complex, and valuable you.
“We are God’s masterpiece…” Ephesians 2:10 NLT
“…anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” II Corinthians 5:17