Heritage: National or Spiritual?

What is your heritage? Swedish ... Hispanic ... African ... Dutch? How does your earthly heritage shape your spiritual life? Read on as Erin Reynolds layers our thinking on this topic.


Heritage: National or Spiritual?

By Erin Reynolds, PhD.

I am Dutch and as I say that, there is a certain amount of pride that goes with the statement. To me it means that I am thrifty, inventive, resourceful, resilient, and stubborn (In a good way ... I don't give up).

There is a reason the practice of splitting the bill is referred to as "going Dutch." They built an eighth of their country on previously submerged land. They turned wind into power before it was environmentally the right thing to do. They remade themselves not only after WWII, but also the great flood of 1953. The Dutch uphold self-reliance and independence over need and entitlement. They often succeed in business, but live modestly.

Of course I am over-generalizing when I give the character qualities of the Dutch. Not all Dutch are thrifty, inventive, resourceful, resilient, and stubborn.

As I look at myself and see these qualities, I can't help but wonder if they sometimes get in the way of God working in my life. A person who thinks she can do it all on her own is not going to be one who quickly turns to a higher power. A woman who prides herself on coupon clipping and saving might be slower to splurge on the needs of others. If I can pull myself back up by my own bootstraps, why would I ask someone else to do that for me? If I already know I have all the answers, why should I question my own thinking? If I believe, or don't believe, that is personal and not a matter up for discussion.

My ethnic roots just might be cinching off the health of my spiritual roots. In other words, my ethnic identity may be playing a bigger role in my life than my identity in Christ.

I want to be the person God created me to be in relationship with the Trinity. I think God would like to replace my thriftiness with life-giving abundance (John 10:10). I think God would like me to team my inventiveness with the "plans he has for [me]" (Jeremiah 29:11). I know God would like me to surrender my resourcefulness and resilience to his strength and power (John 15:5), because in that conscious, deliberate act, God is glorified (Philippians 2:5-11).

So maybe I need to acknowledge my stubbornness as something that may be hindering me and tripping me up, trading it in for perseverance which, if I keep my eyes on Jesus will help me to stay on course and finish the race set before me (Hebrews 12:1-2).

We all fall into stereotypes that may or may not be related to our ethnic identities, or perhaps just our family history and patterns. I want be to seen as a light reflecting Christ and his character, highlighting my spiritual identity, rather than a selfie focused on the angles which will make me look the best.

Erin Reynolds earned her doctorate from the University of Denver in Human Communication Studies. She now consults, writes, and speaks about communication topics. She resides in Littleton, Colorado with her husband Bob, and three children. She blogs at erinreynoldsblog.wordpress.com.