There is a close approximation of an answer to the question Who Am I and to the conundrum of being stuck somewhere between a goal and a gift. That approximation is this: that life is a mixture of both.
You can always be a better version of yourself. There's always something you can do better at, or do in a more loving way. When you are fortunate enough to come into contact with that greater measure of yourself, it's always a goal. It's a reminder, directly or indirectly, that you are not fully what you could be. Sometimes, it's a one-to-one correlation. You find yourself more patient than you normally are, and you know that you need to work on your patience. Sometimes, it's not so clear. Sometimes, you find yourself patient and realize how quietly condescending you are, and you know you need to work on that. So anytime you come in contact with a better version of yourself, there's always a goal. There's always a way to be a little more like her. There's always a reason to pray, Please. Please, Lord.
And yet, this is also a gift. You recognize that right away when you understand that who you glimpse in the mirror is not who you normally see. You are not, on a day-to-day basis, this person; you're not sure you could be. You know you can't be on your own. So this person is always a gift, something to be celebrated, something to be thankful for. Maybe you find yourself without that incessant inner dialogue that's always questioning who you are. For a brief moment, you're at peace. You know you never could be, not as long as you're looking in the mirror. This...is a gift. Maybe you respond with grace, and you don't know where that measure of grace came from but it feels so natural in this brief moment. That's a gift. Rejoice. There's always a reason to pray, Thank You. Thank You, Lord.
So the answer to the question of the goal or the gift is: both. The answer to the pull between Please or Thank You is Please AND Thank You.
Now, in the same way that the theology behind all this doesn't answer the question for me (as I discussed on Wednesday), neither does this really satisfy my spirit. I still long to know who I am. I still long to know what God has created in me. I still long to know the ways I've been made. But I'm growing more content with the truth that there may be simply no way to know until the design of me is revealed in life restored.
Life as we know it may always be this constant pull between the attainable and the unattainable, between the broken man and the blessed, between who I am and who I ought to be. It may always be this pull between having to be faithful just as I am and having to be thankful that I'm not always as I am; sometimes, I am something better. This life is a constant reminder that I am but fallen.
It's not a satisfying answer. It still leads to that tension, that pull between inspired hope that I could be more than I currently am and that frustration that curses myself for not already being this more. Between holding out more for myself and condemning the little that I currently happen to be. Between knowing myself and not knowing myself and wishing I could know myself. It's that tension that lives somewhere between the goal and the gift. It's the tension that comes from asking, How was I created? And how have I been made?
Knowing, of course, that I have been fearfully and wonderfully made. And knowing, equally, how often I have been made by fear and wonder.