I was first introduced to artist Brian Andreas’ StoryPeople my junior year of college.
I had spent a semester in an exchange program at Duke Divinity School, and right before I left, my roommate presented me with a print of “Before Dawn”—she said that she picked it for me because the colors matched the quilt on my bed (which they did), but the message hit close to home:
I’ve always liked the time before dawn because there’s no one around to remind me who I’m supposed to be, so it’s easier to remember who I am.
It spoke to my belief that God was calling me to ministry, even though I didn’t quite know how that was going to pan out. It spoke to my growing awareness of the gender expectations and pressures that came with being a young woman. It spoke to my deep desire to feel rooted in an identity that, at 20 years of age, sometimes felt hard to grasp, let alone articulate.
All these years later, this print hangs in my office, watching over my desk, beckoning me to remember who I am whenever I start to waver.
So who am I? First and foremost, I am a beloved child of God. And so are you.
A large part of why I’m passionate about faith formation for all ages is that it seeks to help us remember who we are, deep down, at the very core of our beings.
But remembering is more than a cognitive exercise. This rootedness in our identity as children of God, when taken seriously, means so much more than knowing the key stories of our faith or some theological terms.
The Biblical witness shows us time and again that remembering involves knowledge and response inextricably connected to one another.
Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy…
Remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there…
Do this in remembrance of me…
To remember who we are forms us, beckoning us to live our lives in light of that identity.
To remember who we are as beloved children of God means that our lives are connected by this shared identity—that we have the responsibility of living in ways that bring God’s light and love into this world so that all of our sisters and brothers may have what they need to not only survive, but thrive.
So may we remember who we are as God’s children—formed in God’s image, shaped by the stories and equipped with the language of our faith, called and sent out to love and serve the world.
The Rev. Elizabeth Smith-Bartlett is Minister of Formation and Nurture at Hitchcock Presbyterian Church in Scarsdale, and serves as co-chair of the Hudson River Presbytery’s Committee on Preparation for Ministry.