by Karris Golden

The fact that we are all children of God.

THERE ARE THINGS I BELIEVE, based on information, feelings and experiences, that make sense to me. I can define and describe these beliefs, even if I cannot fully or adequately explain my reasons. Likewise, there are things I know—ideas and information that I can explain with data, facts or evidence.

Over the years, I have come to appreciate the way some pokes, prods and rebukes of my beliefs have changed my understanding, deepened my resolve or made me consider why I hadn’t questioned some things. I’ve realized that:
1. I don’t know as much as I once believed I did.
2. I grossly underestimate how much I don’t know that I don’t know.

It is frustrating, scary and incredibly freeing to acknowledge that one has biases to shed, assumptions to drop and “dumb” questions to ask. Yet after long hours, days and weeks of making mistakes, I’ve seen the reward come. I have found joy in finally seeing something that had been in front of me for a long time—sometimes years. After my initial Duh, Karris, I often get a second-wave epiphany, a realization such as: God has sent people to me with that message before. Guess I was too oblivious (Or preoccupied? Or obstinate?) to see it.

It’s not that I’m getting wiser with age. My head just isn’t as hard as it used to be. I have more work to do. That’s okay. God is good.

But why would God wait for me to “get it”? Why does God seem to try so hard—or rather, how is it that God is always there when the scales fall from my eyes?

The answer can be found throughout the Bible, more than 50 times by my count. God calls each of us by name in order to love us, shower talents upon us and infuse us with purpose. Literally. This is at the heart of Isaiah 43. You’ll want to read the whole passage in your Bible, but here’s a taste:

But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. …Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you. (vv. 1-2, 4a)

Isaiah is clear: There are no conditions on God’s love or patience. In fact, nowhere in Scripture are there limits on God’s love for us. God doesn’t have caveats like “You get this many chances” or “You can only screw up 300 times.” What’s more, in the Parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:1-7), Jesus says that “there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

I can be hard-headed about who I am, forgetting that my identity is more than just what can be seen and experienced. Before I was born, God knew me, forming my identity even then. “Child of God” is the true identity I wear as I make my way in the world.

As a daily meditation, I ask myself:
Who do you believe you are?
Who do you say you are?
How do you know who you are?
Who do you want to be?

After each question, I say:
God called me by name, specially and specifically.
I am God’s own daughter, always and irrevocably.

Sometimes it’s tough to give this answer and let it be. Sometimes I have to stop myself from mentally listing the ways in which I fall short of “child of God.” What could possibly make me worthy? So many other people seem smarter, more engaging, much better. I want to bargain. I want to hide. Sometimes my mind strays to labels people affixed to me in the past: “different,” “single mother,” “insignificant,” “troublemaker,” “angry.” Sometimes I worry about how other people might label me now: “aging,” “irrelevant,” “slow,” “still a troublemaker.” It’s enough to make me want to do something—something to earn the right to proclaim my identity as a child of God. It’s hard to let it stand on its own, without acknowledging or addressing what others might believe they see or think they know.

But my meditation is rooted in Psalm 139:13-14, and in the truth that God has called each of us by name:
It was you who created my internal organs, fashioning me within my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for you made me with fear and wonder;
Marvelous are your works, and you know me completely.

Originally written in Hebrew, this passage refers to “fear”—in this case, the great care, reverence and respect—with which God formed us. Likewise, “wonder” is the blend of God-given skills and attributes that make each of us unique.

Whether you understand this, believe this or are completely indifferent to this does not change the fact that God made you. This is a blessing bestowed before your mother even gave birth to you. God is calling you. And whether your attempts to fulfill this calling encompass 90 years or 9 minutes, you remain God’s own child.

As for me, I will likely retrace my meditation for the rest of my life, allowing the well-worn path of Scripture to yield new insights. It’s a consistent, unchanging reminder that God formed me and claimed me, and I need not justify that birthright.

The same goes for you. God formed you. God claimed you. This requires no authorization, proof or justification. You are a child of God. It is true. It is your blessing, the light of Jesus Christ reflected through you.

Do I fret too much over the swirling mass of things other people say, of worries that others won’t listen to me, of my fears of failing? Perhaps. But one thing’s for sure: I cannot continue to focus on those things and live up to my birthright. So I strive to do the latter, and answer God’s call.

Even when I feel unsure, I will persevere in claiming my identity as a child of God. I will not question it. I will not be called out of my name. Nor will you.

I know this. I believe in you. God’s blessing shines through you.

Creator God: Thank you for conferring your unconditional love on me without question.
Help me, your child, to share your love without condition.
Before I drew breath, you instilled in me distinct purpose and talents.
Give me courage to share your grace in this hurting world.
Before my mother named me, you called me as your own.
Strengthen me to serve others as a child of God. All this I ask in the name of your Son, who lived and died, so that I might fully receive your blessing. Amen.

Karris Golden is a writer and speaker from rural northeastern Iowa. She is a member at Bethlehem Lutheran in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Read more “Worthy” reflections in the February 2023 issue of Café, Women of the ELCA’s online publication for and with young adult women.

This article appears in the January/February 2023 issue. To read more articles like it, subscribe to Gather.