The second of seven things that make you great is this – You were born with the stamp of nobility on you.
Theologians call this the Imago Dei. Typically, Christians refer to it as the Image of God. Whatever term you prefer… you were born with it. You were born with nobility stamped on you and in you.
In doesn’t matter which side of the tracks you come from. It doesn’t matter if where you came from didn’t even have tracks! You were born with the image of God Himself in you and on you.
You bear the stamp of nobility.
I never think of this most important fact about us without Ethel Waters coming to mind. This grand lady had a rough start.
Her parents were her 13-year-old mother and the man – an acquaintance of the family – who raped her.
Ethel was born in Pennsylvania. She grew up dirt poor and neglected.
She never lived in the same house for more than 15 months. She said of herself, “I never was a child. I never was cuddled, or liked, or understood by my family.” (The man who raped Ethel’s mother was of mixed race and thus, so was she. This certainly played into her lack of acceptance in childhood.)
If anyone had excuses by the bagful to waste a life, Ethel did. But that was not her style.
Part of the image of God in Ethel included a voice that could raise the hair on the back of your neck. (Early in her singing career she performed in the same club as blues singer Bessy Smith… who demanded that Ethel not be allowed to sing blues while they were booked together!)
A list of Ethel Waters’ accomplishments would fill this blog. Let me give you just three:
- She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1949
- She was nominated for an Emmy Award in 1962
- Three of her recordings were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame
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In 1957 Ms. Waters renewed her commitment to her long-neglected Christian walk. She herself marked that point as the turnaround in her life. She spent her latter years performing with Billy Graham in his meetings.
I ran into a quote by Ms. Waters when I was 17 and it was like a gift of gold to me:
“I know I’m somebody ‘cause God don’t make no junk!”
This same quote hung over our two children’s beds when they were born and throughout their early years.
Ethel Waters was 51 years old when she dug again the old wells, and returned to honor the stamp of nobility within her.
Bad things begin to happen personally and socially when we blow off our stamp of nobility. We begin to treat ourselves and others as though we are things – not even as humans, much less as nobility.
And we are somehow diminished by the doing. (If you’d really like to delve into this matter see Martin Buber’s famous and classic I-Thou. But be prepared for a mental workout. Buber ain’t exactly light reading!)
To paraphrase Pierre Teilhard de Chardin – It is more accurate to say that we are spiritual beings on a human journey than human beings on a spiritual journey. That’s the mark of nobility in us.
Don’t let the thoughts and opinions of others… and more importantly… the thoughts and opinions of yourself, put limits on you.
Let me give you another quote by Ethel Waters: “We are all gifted. That is our inheritance.”
You have the stamp of nobility on you. It’s one of the things that make you great.
The challenge now is to dream big, and to live that nobility out!
You can see Ethel Waters in the following link singing the song of faith for which she is famous – His Eye is on the Sparrow. She is 78 at the time so her powerful voice is in decline… but just check out her spirit! Click here
See Wikipedia for a nice synopsis of Ethel Waters’ life.