A Temple Steward's Identity
I have a split identity. Though my heritage is Korean, I’m as American as they come—proudly pledging allegiance to the flag, eating Tofurky (vegetarian substitute) and mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving, and learning solely English from the moment I could speak. Having recently moved to Korea to teach middle school English, however, I have begun to call my identity into question. Adapting to Korean culture has been complicated. Despite sharing the physical characteristics of the local Koreans, I differ from the general population owing to my inability to speak Korean.
I have a split identity. Though my heritage is Korean, I’m as American as they come—proudly pledging allegiance to the flag, eating Tofurky (vegetarian substitute) and mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving, and learning solely English from the moment I could speak.
At first, I felt defensive of my American identity that was constantly proverbially at war with my almond-shaped eyes, dark hair, and olive skin. My pride kept encouraging me to close my mind and remain the same. Realizing that this was ineffective, I eventually swallowed my self-importance, thinking that sheer mimicry could help me assimilate myself into the culture instead; however, no matter how much I tried to look like a local in dress and mannerisms, I was still an “outsider.” It became apparent the moment anyone tried to speak to me. “I don’t speak Korean. I’m from America,” became my mantra.
All of this changed when I began teaching. Suddenly, my ability to speak English was useful, and I no longer had to impersonate to feel accepted. Watching the students respond to my lessons and hearing their English improve became such an encouragement. In fact, the moment I fully grew into my new role, I found my identity crisis to be a non-issue. My service gave me purpose instead and I became committed to using my language abilities to facilitate my students’ learning.
In much the same way, becoming stewards of the “temple of God” involves a similar identity transformation. Physically, we share the appearance of God, being made in His image (Gen. 1:27). This body, according to 1 Corinthians 6:19, is His temple—not a castle surrounded by a moat, protected by a fire-breathing dragon. Too often, however, we become more like fortresses of pride than sanctuaries where the Holy Spirit can abide. When this proves ineffective, we start believing that being stewards of the temple—the house of the Lord—can be accomplished through correctness: eating healthfully, abstaining from bad habits, having daily devotions, being temperate in all things. While these are all good and integral parts of the Christian lifestyle, one cannot simply go through the motions to claim the identity of being the “steward of the temple.” One must realize that true stewardship is first an inward commitment to, and, focus on, Jesus that results in outward service.
“I don’t speak Korean. I’m from America,” became my mantra.
In The Desire of Ages, Ellen G. White states, “I don’t speak Korean. I’m from America,” became my mantra. (p. 488). God chose us, fought for us and deliberately decided to set up camp in our feeble, imperfect bodies. As believers in this truth, who are we to reject Him with our pride or replace him with routine, seemingly correct actions? Instead, we should find identity in our work for the Lord—honoring His sacrifice by sharing our God-given talents with others. This new self-perception allows the Holy Spirit to find a hospitable place to reside, a place where he can truly transform us from within. Through this physical, emotional and spiritual service to Christ, we honor Him with our bodies, making us true stewards of the temple of God.
...How does it change my thoughts and behavior when I remember the Holy Spirit lives in me — God's temple'?