Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Who Am I

You are fearfully and wonderfully made. But you are also made by fear and wonder, and a host of other experiences. One of the questions I often find myself asking, particularly in these days, is exactly who am I? Because the truth is that there is a way I was created and there is a way I've been made.

The same is true for you.

God had something in mind when He created you. He knew what every tiny part of your personality needed to be in order for Him to do precisely the thing He wants to do with you. Maybe He instilled in you a good humor. Or a quiet patience. Or a tender caring. Maybe He gave you a mind to understand or eyes to see or hands to work. Maybe He gave you a special voice or a powerful presence or a contagious smile. 

The problem is that by the time you reach an age of understanding where you can begin to ask these questions, you are not merely created any more; you have been made. You have been made to be a certain way by the life that you have lived. For better or for worse, the experiences you have had have shaped you. Maybe God created your contagious smile, but maybe this world made you to hide it. You look in the mirror and see your sullen face and wonder if this is who you are. Or are you something different? Maybe God gave you that sullen face. Who knows?

Maybe you speak very well. Did God create that voice in you, or have you been made to have such a voice because it was the only way you would ever be heard? Maybe you have a quiet patience. Were you created that way or is that how you have been made? Whatever it is about you, there comes a point when you begin to ask the question - is this really me? Is this who I am? Am I something more? Am I something less? Something different entirely?

There are a couple of ways to begin to think about this question, of course. The first comes from an old theology that says that God has been using your life to shape you into who He needs you to be, so the answer is that you've been made in the same form that you were created. Certainly, there is some comfort in this. You look in the mirror and what you see is what you get. There's no need for the harder questions. Except that there is a harder question. If God has been making you the way He needs you to be through your experiences, and you have had some horrific experiences, what does this say about God? Is He really that sadistic? Is He so limited in power that He cannot create you except by breaking you? Is there more power in His heavy hand than in His tender one? There are a lot of deeper theological problems with this view, but these are the practical, pressing troubles. It's why I don't, personally, buy into this. (That and, there's not a lot of Biblical foundation for such a thing.)

The other way to begin thinking about this question is from the idea of open theology, that God is responsive to what is occurring in our world and in our lives, that creation is fluid, in some sense. Here, we can draw on verses like Romans 8:28: And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose. Another version says, We know that God is working together all things for good.... From this view, it doesn't much matter how you have been created and how you have been made; God is using you anyway. You still get the comfort of looking in the mirror and knowing that what you see is what you get, and it's encouraging to know that God is using you just as you are. But this doesn't really answer the question for me. 

I know that' kind of silly-sounding. Isn't it enough to just be God's? Doesn't that sufficiently answer the question? Who am I? I am God's. It sounds like enough. It sounds like a lot, actually, and it does sort of begin to answer the question of how I'm supposed to be doing this life. I'm supposed to be doing life God's way. 

Sometimes, this question comes out of discouragement, a feeling that life is not all that it's supposed to be. In these times, maybe this answer is enough. Maybe it's enough to know that God is using you right where you are, just as you are. Maybe it's something to hold onto. Maybe it's a reminder that even when your life feels small, you are still doing a big thing because you're doing a thing for God. I think we all have those moments.

But sometimes, this question comes out of encouragement, a feeling that life could be more than this. Sometimes...sometimes you will be so blessed by something - by an experience, by a moment, by a breath - and you will get a glimpse of something else entirely that you are. You are God's. You are firmly God's. But sometimes life gives you this moment in which you are also something else entirely than what you see when you look in the mirror. You're something more...or something less. You hardly recognize yourself. And when you start on the foundation that you are God's, these are often holy moments. Unexplainable, indescribable holy moments. They feel different in your spirit. In moments like these, you can't help but wonder: who am I.

Am I the man who was just looking at himself in the mirror? Or am I the man who just had this holy moment? Am I the woman who is content to be God's as I've been made? Or am I a woman who was created to God's in a different way? In a world in which you are fearfully and wonderfully made, can you settle for being made by fear and wonder? Don't you want to know sometimes what the original design was?

It matters. Particularly in the shadow of these holy moments, it matters. I know this is kind of heavy material. It's a new question for a lot of you, so I'll leave it here for today. But come back tomorrow and we'll look at one of the ways in which this question matters so deeply.

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