At the end of my second year of college I found myself in a depressed state. I had fallen in love for the first time, and I had also fallen out of love that year. I was burned out from attending classes and from the sense of overwhelming study. Feeling like I couldn’t go on, I dropped out of college. I felt like a failure: I had let my family down. I didn’t measure up.
The question that struck me during my time out of school was this: Is this feeling of failure now my identity, or is this emotion an experience along the journey of life? When have you allowed failure to define you?
The prophet Isaiah writes to a people who have gone through the terrible ordeal of being taken over and taken away by a foreign power. In the wilds of Babylon the people have to decide if this shift will define them and be their new identity or if this is simply an experience along the way. In this chapter, Isaiah tells them that exile is only an experience; their identity as God’s chosen people remains. They are about to move from a time of exile to homecoming. The saving God who “created” them and “formed” them also redeems. Like Jesus, who in baptism learns to whom he belongs, this people in a foreign land hear of God’s love for them: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”
I finally returned to school and fell in love again. I continued to follow God’s leading in my life. I realized my identity as a beloved child of God and acknowledged my failure as one of those universal experiences we all have along the way. Just as Isaiah assured his people, I experienced God’s assurance: “I have called you by name, you are mine.”

O loving God, assure us once again that you are ever present with us. Amen.

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This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”

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