As early as the year 1050, Norwegians were building Stavkirke (or “Stave Churches”) for the purposes of worship and the practice of their newly adopted faith. These incredible wooden structures mixed Christian symbols with Viking imagery. Such as dragon heads carved into the eaves! Can you imagine a church today with stained glass windows depicting mythological creatures? The Norwegians knew who they were. They were creators. And they were conquerors. They weren’t in the business of forsaking their identity. And though Europe was no stranger to wooden churches, only those in Norway survived. 28 Stavkirke are still with us today.
There are a million potential metaphors here, but let’s start with the easiest. Are our identities etched in our being, or are they as frail and interchangeable as stick-on nametags? “Hello, My Name is _____!” Make no mistake, if we don’t fill in the blank, someone will do it for us. And how about what it says of modern Christianity? For one, it speaks volumes to the importance of knowing and embracing one’s identity. Who are we? Are we sons of God because of what we do, or because it’s simply what we are? If we know what we are, is there any cause for pretending to be something we’re not? For so long, we’ve found our identity in what we do for God, rather than just knowing our place in Him. But this way of life is so contrary to our purpose.
Imagine the levity of operating within that kind of freedom. “You are a norse warrior. Build a church.” That statement requires only two things: that we recognize who we are, and that we engage with the world around us. This is what it means to know thyself. You are His. That is all. And you did nothing to earn it. But with that knowledge also comes the responsibility of who you are. “You are a norse warrior. So build a church fit for a norse warrior.” Pretty simple. Pretty incredible.