Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Who Am I?

I ask many questions in life, but that’s the way I learn.
If you ask no questions you get no answers, and then you know nothing.
Now I must admit that I can wax philosophical on any number of issues, and if I listen to myself too much I start picturing myself sitting around in a sixties beatnik coffee house wearing a black beret, a turtleneck, and a goatee spouting big words whose definitions escape me while drinking carrot juice (produced from organically grown carrots of course).
Scary picture, huh? I think so too, but that doesn’t stop the questions from coming. And then my test anxiety kicks in and I can’t remember the answer! It’s not like I consciously go out of my way to ask them either. They just pop up out of nowhere. Like this morning.
I was driving into work like I do every other weekday. I was approaching the freeway on ramp minding my own business and all of a sudden I get hit with a Question. These are capital letter Questions too, not just run of the mill everyday stuff. I have no idea where they come from, but once they form my mind just runs away with them and for the rest of the day everything is viewed in the light of that Question.
So what is the Question of the day you ask?
“Who am I?”
Seems simple enough most of the time. Usually a name and Social Security number is sufficient, but this time there was a need for a deeper answer. It was as if there was suddenly a need to quench a deeper thirst that had been neglected for too long. I began to wonder if the answer is tied up in all the relationships that I am part of. I am a husband, father, brother, son, uncle and cousin. Friend and spiritual brother to numbers that time has rendered uncountable. Many relationships are close, but many are more casual as well. Regardless of the proximity of the relationship though, each one has contributed something to my life. I have learned something from everyone I know whether it is good or bad and I have contributed in the same way to others. The lessons are endless, and although the lessons and the contributions of others in my life are valuable, I am not the sum of the parts of other people.
What else is there to make me who I am? I suppose my life experiences in general could be a part of me. Many of my actions are determined by my past, yet that alone is not who I am either.
Food? Well, if we are what we eat then I’m everything, but mostly red meat, potatoes and chocolate, but that’s not the answer either.
Some of us get caught up in our possessions, and there are times when we might feel that we are owned by them rather than their owners. However, there is nothing I own that defines who I am. They may reflect some of the values I hold, but they do not define me.

The kicker is that the reality of who I am does not lie within me. My actions or philosophical viewpoints do not create my identity. In fact, at the most basic level it really has nothing to do with me at all. As a creation I take on the value my creator ascribes to me.
A potter creates something for a specific purpose, and it becomes valuable to him because of how and why he made it. It is the definition of his purpose. Anyone else’s opinion on the matter is irrelevant, because the image cast in the clay is the expression of the potter’s purpose and no one else’s. The value is in the hands of the potter.
My value lies in the hands of God. My God brought me out of nothing and made me someone. From the first He has never ceased to be devoted in His care of me. “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.” (Psalm 139:13)
He knows who we are and He loves us because He created us to be loved by Him. No one among us is capable of His level of love, and so our greatest value, our most intimately understood secret, is in relation to Him alone. It is to Him we must look for our self worth rather than man.
If we look at the results of our value in the human race and our value in His eyes there is no comparison.
We have striven for independence from the beginning, and it has gotten us nothing. Our search for independence means we must find value in ourselves aside from God. So we search for some new standard, and most of the time we settle for the standard of the society in which we live. God forgives; the problem is society does not.
If you are not physically attractive by society’s standards (and every society’s standard is different) then you have less value to them.
God is not swayed by society’s values.
If you have made mistakes society will shun you.
God willingly sent His son to die in your place to cover your mistakes.
You in your supposed independence have scorned others who needed Him.
Christ was still there to welcome you with open arms when you finally acknowledged your need of Him.
All of these things are true because your identity and your value in His eyes never changed. Never.
Not at any time, nor in any circumstance.
The fact that He created you never altered. Your strengths, weaknesses, deficiencies, and mistakes are all known to Him, and they never diminished your value in any way, because nothing you did changed your value in His eyes. He has already determined your value from the beginning. While my actions may cause me to drift away from Him, His love has never diminished with distance. His attentions did not leave you when you first walked upon the earth. He has stayed with you all of your life whether you have acknowledged Him or not.
I can complain about how unloved I am by the world, or I can take comfort in the fact of God’s overwhelming love for me. He gave me purpose when no one else could give me anything.
I am constantly confronted with the idea that man seeks independence from God.
The question “Who am I?” seeks purpose, but gaining purpose comes from outside of ourselves. Therefore we have to acknowledge someone else’s authority over us, but at the same time this threatens our search for independence. This becomes a vicious circle that leaves us purposeless, without definition. If we have no definition, no purpose, then we are simply wanderers, truly separated from the love of God.
All this because we seek a complicated answer to a simple question. We refuse to realize that the One who created us did so for the simple reason that He wished to love us.
Man in his prideful attempt at independence claims, “I think, therefore I am.”
God in His loving and gracious patience with us says, “I AM, therefore you are.”
And so, at last, we come to the simple answer to the simple question that we make complicated.
Who am I?
I am…
Loved By God.
©Dan Bode 2001