I always thought I was pure Norwegian. Sure, I knew my mom had been adopted as a young girl, and had some undefined mix of British blood in her, but she had been adopted into a first-generation Norwegian-American family; Dad was all Norseman; and that was good enough for me. I wore the Viking label proudly. But during my teen years, mom was able to re-connect with siblings from her birth family (a great story in itself), and began to find out more about her family tree. And eventually she discovered she was fully one-half Irish…making me one-quarter Irish. Who knew? And honestly, who wanted that label? When you’ve built your identity on Vikings and sailing ships, it’s hard to make room for shamrocks and leprechauns.
But I’m learning to embrace my Irish side. I’m even considering the possibility that St. Patrick might be as cool as Leif Erickson (just don’t tell my Norwegian relatives). So in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, here are 4 of my favorite things Patrick said…
“The Lord opened the understanding of my unbelieving heart, so that I should recall my sins.” This awareness of his own sin, which seemed to remain with Patrick throughout his life, kept him grounded and humble.
“Before I was humiliated I was like a stone that lies in deep mud, and he who is mighty came and in his compassion raised me up and exalted me very high and placed me on the top of the wall.” What an awesome description of God’s grace! (And a great paraphrase of Ephesians 2).
“If I have any worth, it is to live my life for God so as to teach these peoples; even though some of them still look down on me.” As a teenager, Patrick (who was actually an Englishman!) was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Ireland, where he spent six years. But after his escape and return to his English homeland, he later returned to the very land of his bondage to bring the gospel and help to transform Irish culture. The people-pleasing side of me is strengthened by his resolve to seek the approval of God alone.
“Christ beside me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ within me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me.” Because of Patrick’s simple devotion to Christ and his gospel, 5th century Ireland—which was violent, war-oriented, and viewed women as commodities—was impacted in deeply positive ways.
So much that we read about Patrick is fiction, like his legendary removal of snakes from Ireland. But the real Patrick gives us more than enough adventure and inspiration. So on this St. Patrick’s Day, this reluctant Irishman is getting inspired by his example. I’ll close with one more Patrick quote, which is worthy of the most rugged Viking: “Daily I expect to be murdered or betrayed or reduced to slavery if the occasion arises. But I fear nothing, because of the promises of heaven.” Makes me (almost) proud to be Irish.