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Identity Interview with Janet C Hanson

Janet Hanson, blogger for Holding Things Up to the Light

Janet C Hanson is a gifted writer, teacher, seminary student who loves Jesus and his unconventional ways.** She’s given her life to help equip God’s people to know Him better, know themselves more fully, and to live in the fullness of God’s ways.

Read on to discover more fascinating insights regarding Janet and her identity:

Who I am” can’t be known apart from three identity-shaping influences in my childhood: The Farm, The Church, The Culture of the 1960’s.

  • The Connecticut farm of an extended family of Swedish immigrants, where I learned love and respect for nature, and an appreciation for simpler pleasures. The family narrative was subtle: we are special, set apart.
  • The church where I was loved, a small congregation where children were welcome and valued, all ages mingled and leaned on and learned from each other. I heard clearly: I am the beloved child of a good God.
  • The angry 1960’s: My father was a college professor.  The campus tensions, as well as the news of assassination and protest, reached into our home. Too young to march, I was convicted nevertheless–injustice must be fought, the voiceless must be heard.

These forces came together in murky stew of self-understanding: I am more than just me, I am beloved of God, I belong to the world. But also: I must be superior, I must be special, and I must be a fighter in order to earn my place.

Tamara: Share your perceptions and experiences of identity in the global culture.

I was so fascinated by this question I wrote a blog post, The Ultimate Identity Theft, to work through my thoughts. In western culture, identity is closely tied to productivity. What do you do, what grade did you get? Where do you work? How much do you make? How many attend your church? How often is your name google-searched.

No wonder we find contempt, or at least discomfort, with the very poor, the dependent, or those who by choice or disability are never “employed.”

What exactly do they add to the world, what do they do to create their own worth? Add our fascination with celebrity, including the Christian kind, and it is easy to feel insignificant.

But identity can mean something different when we cross over borders.

Years ago I traveled to Mexico and stayed with a family who, by our standards, had very little of worth. Yet they offered their home, and urged me to bring my family there to live. They were deeply concerned for my children, growing up in such a violent and emotionally unhealthy place as the USA.

Here, material prosperity and productivity defines worth–the Mexican family knew identity as shaped by healthy communities and relationships.

Tamara:  What are your dreams for God’s people as they “reclaim their true you”?

I have been studying the book of Genesis against the backdrop of Near-Eastern mythology. The Mesopotamian creation stories depict the gods creating human beings so we will do their work for them. In contrast, the creation stories in Genesis portray God doing the work and creating human beings to enjoy and find our identity in him and in community with each other. The sweat-of-the-brow, scramble-to-survive idea of work came after the Fall.

A recovery of God’s original intention would provide really good news for our postmodern culture, tired of assembly-line, consumer-driven life, so longing for authentic relationship, and purposeful work.

Years ago I formed Connections Bible Studies mainly for the purpose of creating a space where women could find authentic community. I attend a very large church and because of its size it’s easy to get lost. In any church the default position is to either isolate or, once we find a group, to circle the wagons and ignore those still on the outside. It is a common sentiment to believe that adding someone new destroys the closeness we’ve attained.

This would certainly be true if there were no Holy Spirit, if what we are about as the body of Christ is done under our own power. How we limit God! As I read the Bible I see God’s love as an open-armed embrace–a hug where there is always room for one more, a holy hospitality. When we close the circle, we become stagnant and turn on each other, gossip, criticism, and factions become the norm. Don’t we see this in the church as a whole today?

Jesus told us in Matthew 25 that when we welcome a stranger we welcome him, and I believe he meant it literally. To embrace others into community is to make space for the transforming work of Christ in our lives, our groups, and our churches as well.

Tamara:  Thank you, Janet, for your thoughtful interview. I am delighted to follow your blog at www.janetchanson.com; readers, consider adding Janet to your blogging reading!

* check out Janet’s introduction and bio www.reclaimthetrueyou.com

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One Response to Identity Interview with Janet C Hanson

  1. Joan says:

    *Our childhoods so often shape the bulk of who we are as adults.  I love how you learned at an early age that you are “the beloved child of a good God”!  I think that is the best lesson to learn as it will carry us through the storms of life.  Thank you for sharing.  I’m looking forward to exploring your blog!

    Blessings, Joan

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