Our shared identity in Christ frees us to celebrate our uniqueness
Mom, am I Chinese?"
I was carefully piling pork filling in a wonton wrapper when my 5-year-old Zachary asked me that question.
His was a genuine enquiry. Although I am Canadian-born Chinese, raised in an immigrant, Cantonese-speaking home, my three boys are growing up in a multicultural environment in Montreal with an American-born, Quebecois-raised dad. Our boys speak French at school and English at home.
As they get older, my sons are realizing our family life reflects unique and somewhat confusing aspects of both my husband’s and my ethnic backgrounds. Our weekly menu ranges from dumplings and soup noodles to cheese and baguettes. We cook with both spatulas and chopsticks. We celebrate Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day and Chinese New Year. Our boys witness us conversing seamlessly between English, French and Cantonese as we interact with different relatives.
Yet it is their physical appearance that most obviously displays their blended heritage. Although they have Asian facial features, two of my boys were born blond and fair. Some days, Zachary will sit on my lap and slowly point out the ways he looks like me or like my husband. "Mom, I have your eyes and I have Daddy’s nose."
As I get older I sense the need to return to my origins. I long to deepen my roots after moving several times across the country. I have not lived close to my parents nor to a Chinese community for nearly 20 years. Lately I find myself looking up Chinese traditions. In my quest to learn more about Chinese cuisine, I called my mom for help. In her enthusiasm, she texted me several recipes and mailed me a specific powdered ingredient (which she suspiciously sealed in a brown paper bag) she insists contains the secret to successful wontons.
This urge to pursue my origins is not unique to me. I think we are created with a desire to know our heritage.
In a recent article, I read that millions of people have paid for at-home DNA tests with the hope of learning more about their ancestry. It seems the knowledge of our lineage somehow informs our identity, which in turn frees us to live and express the uniqueness of who we are. It also provides and defines a place of belonging.
The Bible is filled with passages that talk about lineage. In several books of the Old Testament and in the book of Matthew there are chapters devoted to genealogy. For the Israelites family history was incredibly important because it proved their Jewish identity, and therefore verified their share in Israel’s inheritance and blessing.
However, under the new covenant in Jesus, God shows us that all peoples are invited to partake in this holy lineage. As we delve into this history, we witness His faithfulness to His people. In the New Testament we are constantly reminded that we are welcomed just as we are into His loving family. He calls us His beloved children. " You are my beloved child." God reminds me of my holy heritage. He reminds me I belong.
We always belong.
Our identity is most profoundly shown in the way we were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). Our unique desire for relationships, our capacity to appreciate beauty, our ability to create and to rule, and our varying emotional responses are a reflection of our heavenly Father. I am my Father’s child.
So as I continue working out my own ethnicity and place of belonging, especially in this turbulent year filled with conversations about race, I am reminded that I ultimately need to be grounded in my identity as a child of God. In doing so, I will be able to embrace my own uniqueness and the wonderful diversity and distinctiveness of others.
In Revelation 7 we are given a glorious picture of a day when multitudes representing different ethnicities, cultures and languages stand before God’s throne. We will be displaying the diversity He designed as we worship Him together, our voices united and our uniqueness intact. I long for that day.
These days I take time every morning to sit quietly in God’s presence. Almost without fail I hear Him whisper to me, "You are my beloved child." He reminds me of my holy heritage. He reminds me I belong.
So as I answer Zachary’s questions, I will tell him with confidence, "Yes, you are half Chinese and half Quebecois." But more importantly I will keep reminding him he is a beloved child of God.
Selene Lau is on staff with Power to Change Ministries and is currently enrolled in the Renovaré Institute program on spiritual formation. She lives in Montreal with her husband Jeremy and their three boys. Find more of these columns at www.FaithToday.ca/GoWithGo .