In our world we are often greeted by blanket statements about groups. We are separated by our class, race, and our interests. We see this all the time in media; attempting, reaching, begging to hit some sort of familiar nerve in their audience while they desperately try to sell us their product. Once in these perfectly separated bins, the world has begun to try to tell us how we should feel. "well because you are a _______, you clearly like _____ products, which means you support ______, and therefore cannot stray outside of your respective group."
It doesn't help that on all sides we are bombarded by the fake and generic. The fake being the perfectly plastic pretend people of Hollywood. Showcased in supposed stardom, bathed in their blissful billions, blathering bombast we are to believe they have everything in order.
On the other hand you have the generic; being the rhetoric that we are just a number in the crowd, randomly spawned from cosmic ooze, no purpose, no direction and no reason. Between these two awful images it is no wonder people in record numbers are struggling with depression, anxiety and suicide. After the assault, the pied piper of complacency draws us almost willingly into our labelled groups in order for us to finally feel some sort of comfort with others who are supposedly "like us".
While the world is loudly playing this sad sadistic music, lulling us into our labels, a melody of a another nature seems to soar above the noise. You see, contrary to the common song of desperation, despair and generalities are a voice that has been echoing since before the foundations of the earth were lain. A voice which harmonizes with all creation, breaking up the black and white monotony with a cascade of spilling, brilliant color over it all. It's a sound that shakes the foundations of society, screaming a message of individuality that confounds even the most crafty sales pitch. It is the message that you don't perfectly fit into any bin or group. It is the sound of the Lord of all creation, who rules heaven and earth, declaring that He knows your name.
I believe the reason our hearts long for individuality is because we are created to be loved unlike anyone else. There is a specific need for value, love, and relationship in all of us that can't be satisfied or quieted with a generic label. In Psalm 139 David hammers this need home, saying:
13For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
14I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
15My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
And when the Lord speaks to Jeremiah in Jeremiah 1:5 He says:
5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations."
The truth always sets us free, it rings loud and clear here. You were fearfully and wonderfully made by a loving Father. You were pieced together intentionally for a purpose. There is no one else exactly like you in all of existence. God saw all creation and thought that you were a perfect addition. You are unique, beautiful, and wonderful in your own way--and God loves that about you.
Beyond the revelation of individuality and design by a good Father, it is also important to understand that our actions and choices on this earth matter immensely. We are created by an all powerful God in His image, which means we are also supposed to be powerful people as we partner with the Holy spirit. This means our words, actions, thoughts and choices can have a greater impact than our mainstream labels would like us to believe.
We know that in a community you can gain a reputation and fame, however I also strongly believe that heaven knows our names. I admit, the thought of a heavenly host having an opinion on my reputation is worrisome at first. However, Proverbs 12:3 puts my heart at ease.
3 A man shall not be established by wickedness;
But the root of the righteous shall not be moved.
To me this means that not only will a wicked men never be able to build their kingdom in heaven, but by the mercy and sacrifice of Jesus, my transgressions are blotted out. God doesn't remember my sins! He won't hold them against me when I come to Him in repentance. Instead, He comes running like the extravagant Father of the prodigal son. The root of the righteous is what He has placed in our hearts from eternity, and that beautiful foundation is how we are recognized in heavenly places. His grace, mercy and goodness poured a seed into all of us. If we water it with Christlike choices in this life, it will then blossom, and take hold into a tree of life that will bear enough fruit to impact cultures and feed nations.
Daniel had a crazy childhood. He was brought up in a nation under constant assault. Eventually he was taken from his home as a prisoner of war to a foreign land. Daniel was brought before the king who destroyed his city and killed the people he loved. Instead of harboring evil, giving way to anger, and being poisoned by bitterness, Daniel chooses to do all things unto the Lord. He took it upon himself to advise the King in the ways of God. During his time as a slave, he rose in the ranks to eventually be put in charge of an entire province of Babylon and leader over all other spiritual advisers. The Lord elevated him in the courts of his enemies because Daniel continued to be faithful to God, and honor the root of righteousness in his heart. Through trial, turmoil, multiple rulers, slander, lions-dens and persecution Daniel refuses to stop pursuing the Lord and living his life as a powerful man of God.
Daniel knew he was fearfully and wonderfully made for a powerful purpose and went after it regardless of the situation. Daniel's reputation on the earth among the righteous and the wicked was unwavering and solid. But even in heavenly places the inhabitants of the kingdom of God acknowledge his reputation. When the angel Gabriel first appears to speak with Daniel in 8:17, Gabriel refers to Daniel as "son of man", pretty typical greeting when the angelic communicates with humans. But later we see a second encounter between Daniel and Gabriel, that comes after Daniel is moved by prophecy to intercede for the nation. In this encounter in 9:20-25 Gabriel tells Daniel that as soon as he began to pray God heard his prayers and sent him. Gabriel tells him it is because "you are highly esteemed", quite a change since their first meeting. Upon this meeting Daniel is moved even more and sets himself to fast, repent, and pray for 21 days for his nation and people. Armed with conviction and zeal, dressed in sackcloth and ashes, one man cries out amidst the masses. One voice among the whole earth, and yet the God who knows every hair on our heads hears his cry. Gabriel appears before Daniel yet again in verse 10:11 and seems to treat him differently than their first encounter. This time Gabriel tells him that because Daniel partnered with God in prayer and fasting angels have been moved so that the message of God could be explained to him personally. During their encounter Gabriel refers to Daniel again as "you who are highly esteemed." Gabriel then grants Daniel strength and encourages him.
To me the story of Daniel is an encouragement that I have a purpose in life, and my actions can move heaven and earth when I partner with God and follow Him. It's a reminder that our reputation is being established by the root of righteousness God has placed in us and it's up to us to choose how to nourish it. Of all the lessons in the scriptures this is one of my favorites because not only does it tell us of the potential power each of us can have in our lives, but also that heaven knows our names. We were specifically made by a good Father who knows, loves, and calls to us by name, in a way no type of counterfeit group, label, or slogan can ever hope to match--and that is music to my individually hand crafted ears.