There was a time when Laura de Jong was not happy to be Dutch.
Speaking during the second chapel of Spiritual Emphasis Week at Smithville Christian High School, de Jong said when she was a young girl, she thought she'd much rather be Scottish.
"I watched Scottish dramas on BBC, listened to Celtic music and, when I was 12, I even started learning Gaelic," she said.
But de Jong's attitude toward her ancestry changed after she spent a summer in The Netherlands.
Guided by maps, photographs and directions given to her by her father, de Jong retraced the steps taken by her grandparents and great-grandparents, visiting the villages, attending the churches and listening to the stories that had shaped her roots.
"Through these stories I discovered who I was,” de Jong said. “My family's history became my history. "Now I am wholly and unapologetically Dutch."
DeJong said stories "shape our identity. They remind us who we are and where we came from."
The Israelites had stories too – of how God had chosen them, rescued them and protected them. Yet, by Chapter 2 of the Book of Jeremiah, "they had stopped telling their stories."
They had forgotten who they were, and even worse, they had forgotten who God was. They began worshipping the gods of their neighbours.
De Jong said we might think that we would never do such a thing, but we live in an age where it's very easy to become confused about our identity.
"Today, belief is simply one option among many," she said, and even people who call themselves Christians are often content to put God in a neat Sunday box.
It's also easy to let our identities be shaped by how others see us, or to believe our culture’s messages that we can create our own identities, she said.
"You do you, YOLO, it's your party, express yourself."
When what you wear or who you're dating or your personal self-fulfilment become more important than your commitment to something because it's right, you are in danger of forgetting your story, de Jong said.
God’s message to the Israelites is harsh: he accuses them of making his heritage an abomination and warns that even their children’s children will suffer for what they have done.
But God doesn't stop there. Jeremiah's message, as harsh as it seems, is actually a reminder of their story.
"God offers them, and us, a way back,” de Jong said. In reminding them of the story of God’s love and faithfulness, Jeremiah reminds us too.
And God’s story of grace in our lives isn’t always dramatic or shocking.
“God extends his grace to us in the humdrum things we do, day in and day out. This is good news, friends. God’s grace is everywhere and grace comes to us as we tell our stories.
Our story is that we are beloved children of God, forgiven and made new. How popular we are, or who we are dating, or whether we are a homebody or an adventurer does not matter.
“Our story is not about reputation or earning a place. Our story is a gift.
“God loves you and that is who you are.”
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A student praise team led in worship with “Awake My Soul,” “Heroes,” and “Beautiful Things.”
Spiritual Emphasis Week 2016 features chapel every morning at 9 a.m. (Thursday at 9:30), extended time for daily devotions and discussion, a prayer room and a Friday concert featuring FM Reset. Everyone is welcome to chapel.
To contact Laura de Jong or to find out more about where she's been or where she's going, check out LauradeJong.