Identity. The question of, “Who am I?”
I had a young lady tell me she was tired of behaving and performing like she felt was demanded of her by her boss, friends, church (others might add parents, husband and children) – but she was terrified that if she stopped acting like she perceived everyone wanted her to act she would have no sense of who she was, that she would lose her identity. Hence the question, “Pastor Jim, who am I?”
I gave her the Lord’s answer from two short verses of scripture, summed up in this phrase: “You are God’s child.”
“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1:1-2).
Then I tried to illustrate the Lord’s definition of who she is with the following word picture (having asked her to put aside the dysfunction of her own family for a moment so she could get the essence of what it might mean to be God’s child).
If asked about myself I might respond by saying, “I am a pastor, a director of a ministry, a retired submarine sailor, a father, a husband, a Bible teacher, a man who works with young married couples at the church.” But the truth is, none of those are who I “am.” More correctly, they are roles I have chosen to try and fulfill. If I want to know who I am, I need to go back to the place where I am accepted purely on that basis – the basis of who I am, not what I do or have done or am expected to do – and that place would be the home of Elmer and Marjorie Groves, my parents. The uniqueness of the relationship with them is that, unlike all my present roles, it had nothing to do with my choosing. I did not choose them – they chose me. I am their child. Everything else is just what I do as their child.
If everything in my life were to seemingly fall apart all at once – the ministry fold due to lack of support, my wife threaten to divorce me, my children reject me, my pastor ask me to immediately stop leading Bible studies – I know I would start to question my identity and worth. But all I would have to do is purchase a plane ticket and fly to Seattle, drive the short distance to my parent’s home, ring the doorbell and when that door opened, I would instantly be able to tell you who I am – I am Elmer and Marjorie’s child. There are no conditions, no lists of behaviors or accomplishments to be satisfied at their door. In spite of all the failures I may have experienced in the roles I chose to assume, they would welcome me, accept me, embrace me, love me, simply for who I am – their child. In the solace of that special place, I would be able to set aside all my role related issues and rediscover my true identity and worth. And once that was reestablished, I could return to Orlando and face the challenges of my chosen roles on the solid foundation of who I truly am.
Life would be much more peaceful and abundant if we would separate “what I do” from “who I am” – and make the effort to “go home” more often to rediscover what it means to be God’s child.