we are more than what we have suffered

"Christians believe, however, that neither what we do nor what we suffer defines us at the deepest level. Though the way we think of and treat ourselves and the way others think of and treat us does shape our identity, no human being can make or unmake us. Instead of being defined by how human beings relate to us, we are defined by how God relates to us. We know that fundamentally we are who we are, as unique individuals standing in relation to our neighbors and broader culture, because God loves us - to such a great extent that on the cross Jesus Christ, God incarnate, shouldered our sin and tasted our suffering.

Even more, by opening ourselves to God's love through faith, our bodies and souls become sanctified spaces, God's "temples," as the Apostle Paul puts it (I Corinthians 6:19). The flame of God's presence, which gives us new identity, then burns in us inextinguishably. Though like buildings devastated by wind and flood, our bodies and souls may become ravaged, yet we continue to be God's temple - at times a temple in ruins, but sacred space nonetheless. Absolutely nothing defines a Christian more than the abiding flame of God's presence, and that flame bathes in a warm glow everything we do or suffer.

This new identity - not humanly acquired but divinely bestowed, even in the midst of our ruin - helps to heal wounded selves. We remember wrongs suffered as people with identities defined by God, not by wrongdoers' evil deeds and their echo in our memory. True, some times that echo is so powerful that it drowns out all other voices. Still, behind the unbearable noise of wrongdoing suffered, we can hear in faith the divinely composed music of our true identity. When this happens, memories of mistreatment lose much of their defining power. They have been dislodged from the place they have usurped at the center of the self and pushed to its periphery. They may live in us, but they no longer occupy us; they may cause pain, but they no longer exhaustively define. We are more than what we have suffered, and that is the reason we can do something with our memory of it - integrate it into our life-story, turn it into a junction from which we set out on new paths, for instance. And because we are more than what we have suffered, we may be able to embark, maybe at first haltingly, upon a journey of reconciliation with those who have wounded us."

- Miroslav Volf ("The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World", pp.79-80)

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