You've probably heard the five W's - Who, What, When, Where, and Why. And maybe even the H - How. And there's a lot in this world that wants to tell you what this life is about.
This life is about what you do, they say. It's about the good and the bad and the meaningful things you accomplish within your years.
Or it's all about timing. It's about when. It's about knowing the moment to move and the moment to pause, the time to go and the time to stay. It's not so much what you do, they say; timing is everything.
Or maybe it's geography. The judgment of a man's life is what he does where it matters. You can do all the good things in the world, at all the right times, but if you're not in the right place then you've missed your mark. If you're five miles away from a community that could have really used you, you've missed it. You have to be on the winning team, so of course, where you serve matters.
Or maybe it's the why. This one's becoming popular in our age of individualism. All that matters is your motivation. If you're trying to do good, regardless of the outcome, it must be good. If you have noble intentions and disastrous results, we'll probably still praise you for trying and convince you that you've done a good thing.
We even have a healthy respect for how. A man who comes by every dime honestly and gives a certain percentage back is much more highly regarded than a man who swindles and cons his way to the top.
But I believe there is no greater inspiration in this world than who, and there are two ways to come at this question:
Who God is and who you are.
When you know who God is, you have a healthy appreciation of the depth of His complexity. You understand His heart. You know His character. You trust His word. You believe in the things you have not seen of Him yet because He's told you they are there. And when you understand the greatness, the vastness, and the majesty of God, it necessarily defines what you do, when you do it, where you do it, why you do it, and how you do it. The Who of God answers the remaining questions of life.
The same is true of who you are. Not who you are in the flesh. Not who you are in the mirror. But who you are in the Spirit. Knowing who you are, which generally comes from a sense of knowing who God is and who He has created you to be, guides the rest of your decisions. You don't want to live a life contradictory to your true nature, so you choose your whats, your whens, your wheres, your whys, your hows to be in accordance with your who.
This idea - this answering to a who - is integrity.
Now, it may seem weird to you to say that it depends on knowing who God is or who you are. Shouldn't it just be God? Shouldn't the holy Christian life be defined entirely by God's who at all times? I mean, if you lose sight of God, haven't you lost sight of everything?
How can I get plane tickets to your perfect world?
I've been a Christian long enough to know that as much as it seems it would have to be that way, that's not the way it usually is. At any given time, I can probably tell you who God is or who I am, but not usually both. Both is a tremendous blessing. And no, I don't know why it works that way. But there are times in my life when I've completely lost my concept of God, when I don't know who He is any more, when He seems so far away and so obscure that it's hard to hold onto any part of Him. Yet in those times, there is still something holding me back and that is my sense of who I am. I don't necessarily have to have God in focus to remember who He created in me; it becomes my identity the more I live it and living true to myself, I am living true to God who designed it this way.
That's a struggle of the faith.
There are other times when maybe God's changing what He's asking of me. Or maybe I'm changing what I expect of myself. Maybe I'm in a growth cycle or a sin cycle or some other kind of flux in development where I can look in the mirror and honestly tell you I don't know who I am. That's okay, too, so long as I have a sense of God. That sense of God will guide me, and I will live a life true to what I know of Him.
That's a struggle of the flesh.
Life is a series of these struggles. A back-and-forth between faith and flesh, between having a clear image of God and having a clear image of you. In blessed spurts, in brief glimpses, I have occasionally had both at once but those are heavy moments of purpose that usually either send me in one direction or another, trying to figure out how I relate to the God who calls me to this or how God relates to the me who is bold enough to go for it. That's okay. Because I find that as long as I have one or the other, as long as I have one sense of Who in my life, my other questions are answered.
There is no other way this equation works. Your what cannot tell you who. Your when cannot tell you where. Your why cannot tell you how. The only foundation for the five W's and the H are the Who. That's why it's important always to know, one or the other.
It's called integrity. It's also wisdom. And it's beautiful truth. Because I know who, I know everything I need to know. I know what, when, where, why, and how. The only question that's left is will.
Will I dare?