I am not a reader.
I am not a writer, despite childhood ambition.
I am not a knitter, though I used to claim that identity.
I am not a homeschooler, a baker, or a pianist. (There are other things I could wish I were: a gardener, a runner…but I am not.)
A recent severe identity crisis challenged these assumptions with a sobering reminder that my overwhelming sense of hopeless failure was a manifestation of one recurrent habit: claiming too many nouns instead of verbs.
What difference does that make?
If I say that “I am a reader” I tend to feel guilty if I am not reading the right books or enough of them. If I say “I am a homeschooler” but the day goes poorly, is that the result of sin, or a variation of priorities? How does calling myself a homeschooler affect my relationship with a sister in Christ who teaches in public school if I claim an identity she does not share? Don’t we share the same priorities and one another’s burdens in raising our children in a fallen world?
Indulge me, if you will, in a brief grammar lesson.
Recognizing that instead of being a writer, I am a redeemed woman who is called to be a wife, mother, and teacher. I am redeemed by the blood of the Savior who chose me. I am a woman made in the image of God. I am a wife. I am a mother. I am a teacher by virtue of being a parent, but not the ONLY teacher my children need. Each of those attributes is a vocation (derived from Latin for “voice”), a calling from someone else with authority, not my own determination. Each of those identities is a noun. If I fall short in my identity, it is the result of sin. Because there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, my failure does not change my identity.
So what about reading? How can I deny being a reader?
I am a redeemed woman…who reads, writes, and knits. Note that these are verbs, not nouns. These occupations are activities that I have personal authority to choose. I hope to indulge in them regularly, but failure to read, write, knit, etc. is not a sin. It means that I had other priorities on a given day. If I do not read, that does not change my identity as a redeemed woman, wife and mother.
What about homemaking? Is that an identity or an activity? Homemaking is a subset of marriage and mothering in which I have freedom to be active according to the priorities of my calling. I need to feed my family, but it doesn’t matter in eternity whether I serve processed or organic meals from scratch. I am still a redeemed woman.
Homeschooling is a choice my husband and I have agreed upon in this season of life, but it is not mandatory in order to raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. I know godly parents who have chosen private or public school, and have high respect for the ways they are fulfilling their calling and honoring God in their decision. Parenting is a calling that includes discipleship, teaching responsibility, and accountability, regardless of educational method.
So. Am I going to cease calling myself a reader? No, because it is convenient. Most people won’t ponder whether I am choosing an intransitive verb (“I read”) instead of a linking verb with a predicate noun (“I am a reader”). But it makes all the difference in how I embrace nouns as my identity, and determine my verbs and activity.