Understanding Symbols

Symbols are powerful and play an important role in understanding what it means to belong. A symbol is a visual object, gesture, or sound used to convey ideas and beliefs. Each group creates symbols to identify those who belong and those who do not.  The bald eagle is a symbol of the United States of America.  The extended arm was a symbol of the Nazis.  “Oorah” is the verbal symbol of the Marines.

Symbols of belonging are emotionally charged. The bald eagle is just a bird in most cultures, but to a U.S. citizen it represents the values, history, and passion in what it means to be an American.   An eagle flying over a baseball stadium during the national anthem stirs the soul of an American.  Desecrate the American eagle and you will experience the ire of her citizenry.

To get to know your disciple you must understand the symbols in his life.  Although symbols take on many forms they will faithfully lead you to the heart and thinking of your disciple.  He may not be able to express in words what he is feeling or thinking but the symbols on which his life revolves will speak for him.

A symbol can be as simple as a piece of clothing, a shoe, a type of bike, a style of glasses, a movie, a brand of beer, a cigarette, a team jersey, a tattoo, make of car, venue of music, a neighborhood,  a hair style or color, a make of computer, a flag, a computer game, etc.  The older he becomes and the more money he accumulates the more sophisticated his symbols.   Here in the city even a brand of baby stroller is a symbolic statement of who is “in” and who is “out.”

But many symbols only represent a superficial belonging.  Your disciple possessing a symbol does not necessarily mean that he belongs to a group anymore than him shouting “oorah” means he belongs to the Marine Corp.  A symbol is only an expression of belonging and not the belonging itself.

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