Who, Be Me?
Okay, the title’s bad grammar and rather Elizabethan in flavor. Nevertheless I find I’m posing that question to myself on a rather regular basis. And I think it’s a question that many folks ask themselves.
When I was a teenager, guest speakers at youth events frequently challenged their audiences with what they claimed to be some of life’s most important questions… Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going?
As a Christian I believe I’ve settled the second two issues. When it comes to my origin (or anyone else’s, for that matter), I do believe that I am more than a product of one sperm and egg, but that at some level, I am Divinely constructed. Although my mind is boggled to think that the Creator of the universe knew about me, before He even designed this whole intergalactic cosmos, I choose to believe that such a God of detail could, in fact, have known about me even before I was conceived. And as to the third question, I believe that there definitely exists a real heaven and hell. Should I breathe my last and discover that I was wrong, no big deal. Having lived life on planet earth, as a Christian, would still have been worth it! But of course, I’m confident that I will not be disappointed, but rather delighted to step into eternal paradise that far surpasses even my most incredible expectations.
It’s Question Number One that presents more of a dilemma for me. You would think that as I teeter on the brink of senior- citizenry I should have the answer on the tip of my tongue… but I find it is a complicated issue.
For much of my life, I’ve defined myself by what I do, and perhaps how well, or poorly, I’ve done it. For example when I was a child, I thought of myself as a fun-loving, friendly girl with a nice family and not as much money as I would have liked. I enjoyed being a Canadian city girl. I prided myself on being a good student in school and a good Christian at church. When I failed in any of these areas, or when my circumstances changed, I definitely felt rattled.
Then in young adulthood I wrestled more with the important issue of who I was in God’s sight. This certainly helped me arrive at a place of deeper trust in and reliance upon my Savior for daily fulfillment. I relaxed more, believing that He truly loved me and was astonishingly merciful towards me.
Then I married and children came along and I began to think of myself, once again, in terms of my roles and responsibilities. I was a wife, a mother, a friend, a counselor, a co-worker, a church member, a writer, an extended family member, and eventually a grandmother. And I’ve carried out all of these with the help of a flesh-and-bones body, which has been, for the most part, quite comfortable. But I’ve discovered that these titles are just that… titles. They’re like having a lapel full of name badges. They describe what I do… but they fall short of describing who I am in my core. And unfortunately, most of these require a hefty amount of people-pleasing. This becomes burdensome… as the old saying goes… you can please some of the people, some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time. Thinking of myself as primarily a title-holder, dooms me to failure sooner or later.
C.S. Lewis suggested that a person should think of himself, not as a body that happens to have a soul, but rather as a soul that happens to have a body. I like that. You see, what I do will definitely change. My children will fly the coop, my jobs will change, I might have to leave my home some day, and my body will definitely weaken as the years take their toll on me. When I look in the mirror, I want to see myself as thirty-five, but the reflection is daily revealing someone much older. Yet, I can’t help but feel that the inside of me is ageless… oh, definitely wiser than when I was six, but the soul of a little girl is still there nonetheless.
So… who am I really? I think I must remind myself everyday that who I am is very much wrapped up in the second two questions which faith has already settled for me. I am a “bodified” soul. I was formed in His image and therefore I am a being wired for God-likeness. So when I allow His Spirit to take the lead in my life, I experience the most contentment and fulfillment. And along with that, although temporarily confined to time and physicality, I am an eternal being… designed for everlasting coexistence with my Creator. So, when I don’t allow the here and now to get me too bent out of shape, I’m most at peace with myself. Roles, relationships, health and home may vary, but who I am with God is a constant.
What does that mean for me today? It means that the more I understand about God, the more I understand about myself. The more-closely attached I am to Jesus, the more comfortable I am with my identity. Oh yes, I must still carry out my roles and responsibilities. They are part of my inescapable day-today reality. And I will endeavor to execute them with excellence (definitely easiest with the help of my best Helper!). I will work at being a good wife, a good mom, a good grandmother, a good friend, a good Christian. But I can relax a lot, knowing that those job descriptions do not define me. Who I am boils down to my connection to Christ. Simply stated, “I be… from Thee, for Thee, with Thee, because of Thee, for eternity”… and that is plenty fine with me!