Wednesday, March 10, 2010

This Christian Life: Who am I?

The question, "who am I?" is one of the most daunting questions of our time and not one easily answered. Lately, I have been dealing with others who have either firmly answered that question in their minds or are struggling to answer that question. You would think that those who have answered that question firmly are the ones who have a healthier self understanding than those who have not; but this is not necessarily the case. Sometimes it is the self-confident one that is least understanding of who they are. Often, it is the one who isn't sure who they are that has the best grip on reality and life-in-general. Why is this so? It's a complex and deceptive question. You see, the question, "Who am I?" can only be answered definitively from the end of our life...

What shapes our human identity? Many things. I can only speak as a theologian and a pastoral caregiver on this subject, but allow me to touch on a few "shapers of identity":

1) Our family and its drama: parents, siblings, spouses and children all contribute to the stream of who we are, for better or for worse. Were you loved or abused? Are you a lover or abuser?

2) Our educational journey: did you finish high school? college? postgraduate work? professional school - lawyer, physician? Did you have favorite teachers? What did you study? What type of educational method was involved in these studies: memorization and application? critical thinking? radical empiricism? radical skepticism? creativity? All of these aspects of our educational journey contribute to who we are.

3) The commercial world around us: Our world constantly seeks to shape us through a vast media machine. It seeks to shape our values, our philosophies and ultimately our purchases. It wants to influence our understanding of good, bad, beautiful and ugly in its own terms.

4) Our belief system: do you believe in or trust something enough to build your worldview around it? Today, many people simply allow the commercial world or the national government to shape his or her worldview, but this is not necessarily healthy, good or to be desired. Others, build their worldview on a theology, or the idea of God. This can be good or bad, depending on your understanding of God. What we believe is a powerful shaper of who we are...

5) Our friends or lack thereof: The people we care for and those who care about us who are not our families have tremendous influence in our lives. To befriend someone is to exhibit a special kind of love that can be deep and long lasting. However, people struggle with building relationships today for a variety of reasons or the relationships that they build tend to be superficial. (See #s 1-4 above!)

6) Our choices: the choices we make, generally based on the influence of #s 1-5, tend to define who we are; not just one of those aspects, but all of them together - family and family drama, education, world, beliefs and friends. On one hand, the choices themselves, we think, reflect who we are: "If I choose to attend church, then I love God and find redemption." Thus, the person qualifies his or her self as "good." On the other hand,our choices shape the perception of who we are by others: "Can you believe that guy watches "R" rated movies, but still claims to be a Christian?" Thus others qualify this person as a "hypocrite" and not that good.

These are but a few of the influences on our self-understanding and I have over simplified at that. Let me now give you what I think.

1) The Christian Life is a Constant Process of Transformation.

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

[2 Corinthians 3:18]

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

[Romans 12:2]

Although at a certain point in our lives we can produce offspring, this does not mean that we are mature, or better, have reached the final stage of what God wants us to be. We are in process throughout our lives. In other words, we are always becoming - whether a 46 year old postal worker or a 42 year old mother of 4. Paul understood this completely. Although as young man he would describe himself as a "Hebrew of Hebrews" and "as to the law, a Pharisee" he would later understand himself in a different light...

2) I will be who I will be, because Christ is who Christ is!

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

[Galatians 2:20]

Paul understood what we do not. Whatever life we have as a follower of Christ is bound up in the life and integrity that is Christ Jesus. Paul counted his education and religious context as refuse.

3) I can only understand "what God wants me to be" now...

Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.

[Philippians 3:13-16]

I am not to be conformed to this world; I am not to resign myself to some fatalistic view of my situation - I am to press forward toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Jesus Christ. I am to doggedly cling to Christ, for it is His call, His life that is mine. If Christ is not defining me, my relationships and my hope, then I must change - or be torn asunder by the despair which results from my failure to live the life to which He has called me.

4) I will experience who I am, only when face-to-face with Christ.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.

[1 Corinthians 13:12]

When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, O LORD, I shall seek.”

[Psalm 27:8]

There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads.

[Revelation 22:3-4]

It is only when we are face-to-face with Christ that we will know who we are. In the present, we strive to make Him Lord of our life; to let Him transform us in the painful process of living. He asks us to love deeply, but we shy away from it because love can be painful. Yet it is precisely when we live in obedience to Him that we are changed into what God wants us to be.

Who am I? Who are you?

Only time will tell, as we obediently make Christ Lord over every bit or our lives.

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