Who Am I?

The internet is a place where we can design what the world sees us to be. As much as I’d like to think I am real out here, the truth is that you know me from a lot of words filled with truth and typos and some glimpses into my life via the one-second snapshots I have probably edited and posted. Sometimes I get brave and try to be as truthful as I can. But I know, as much as we’d like to think we are who the internet thinks we are, we only scratch the surface out here.

I think about the thing for which I’d like to be known. I’d like to be known for being a person in process— loved by God and wanting to know more of what that means. A person with real flaws, real gifts, real pain, and real joy. A person with questions and thoughts. I’d like to think myself a writer. And not just a writer, but a good one!

Every real relationship, either face-to-face or screen-to-screen, i.e. wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, cousin, friend, neighbor, acquaintance— begs the question, who am I to {you}? Am I liked? Loved? I want you to see me as a positive adjective  noun. It isn’t entirely satisfying for me to define who I am either. I want you to agree with and affirm me. This is powerful— because who we say we are is confirmed if someone agrees with us— and not just someone, but someone with some authority. Or maybe if enough people say it, then it will be true. But what if there is one dissenter? One who point out the flaws and says I am a negative adjective noun? And what if deep down I know they are right? Facts and opinion, founded or unfounded, tears at the peace of the hope of positive identity.

Who am I? Who do all these people think I am? But who am I really? What is my identity? Where do I belong? If I put this upon you to answer for me, I am certain this question will never be put to rest.

Deitrich Bonhoeffer wrote this verse, still applicable today:

WHO AM I?
Who am I? They often tell me
I would step from my cell`s confinement
calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
like a squire from his country-house.
Who am I? They also tell me
I would talk to my warders
freely and friendly and clearly,
as though it were mine to command.
Who am I? They also tell me
I would bear the days of misfortune
equably, smilingly, proudly,
like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really all that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I myself know of myself,
restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat,
yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
trembling with anger at despotisms and petty humiliation,
tossing in expectation of great events,
powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?

Who am I? This or the other?
Am I one person today, and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
and before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army,
fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

~

We cannot talk about who we are without first talking about who God is. It is He who made us— not we ourselves. I am growing in my awareness of how controversial beginning here is these days. Yet, I come from the starting point of scripture and I desire to maintain the integrity of its assertions. From there, we begin as God reveals Himself. The Old Testament is full of stories that reveal the One True and Living God.

First, God is not some amorphous, out-there deity. He reveals Himself in particular ways and He relates to His creation in particular ways as well. At the beginning, He is Creator. He also relates closely with Adam and Eve, walking with them in the garden. But very quickly after the fall, God reveals Himself to be I AM- the One who was and is and is to come. His authority is swiftly established as He asserts His judgement and dominion over the earth and its inhabitants. As the Law is added, we learn I AM is not one with whom to be reckoned alone. No one comes to God in their own way. He also chooses to reveal Himself by name in terms of His attributes as well as His covenants. Among those, there is El-Shaddai. El is a generic term for deity that “instills with mankind a mysterious dread or reverence”, with -Shaddai meaning “God of the Mountains” or “The Almighty God”. El-Roi means “God who sees me”. Yahweh-Jireh combines the covenant name for God with the place God provided the lamb in the place of Isaac and means “The LORD will provide”. There is Adonai which shows honor and “took on the connotation of God’s absolute lordship”. {reference, Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, pp. 1171-1172} God has many names and these are only some of the ways God chose to reveal Himself for years and years. These names are the ways those with faith called upon Him. They would have thought themselves “Sons of Abraham”, the ones who were the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant. Yet Abraham was not their ultimate father.

Woven throughout scripture are promises of the One who will bridge the chasm between God and man. There are prophecies that speak of Him. His identity is woven in and  through the Old Testament. He will be a child; one called a Son. He is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. He is the child born to us (Isaiah 7:14; 9:6) Immanuel, God with us.

This Son comes to earth, making the claim to be the fulfillment of the prophecies. He says and does many things to prove His divinity and, at the same time, displays His humanity. One of the things He does is teach the disciples how to pray. Yet, after all the descriptive names that reveal the person and character of God in the Old Testament, Jesus tells the disciples to pray in this way (Matthew and Luke’s gospels), and calls out to God saying our Father, or Father. He has spoken of their Heavenly Father, yet speaking of and speaking to are different things. Jesus speaks directly to God as Father and admonishes those around Him to follow suit. Of all the names the disciples would have known to address God, Dad was the way Jesus wanted them to know Him.

Jesus introduces us to God— our, His, mine, your Everlasting Father. 

IMG_1586

Scripture is first a book about His rescue plan, to borrow a phrase from Sally Loyd-Jones. His plan, His person, His Son, Jesus is the main narrative. And who needs to be rescued? The first chapters of the book of Romans answers this question as does other scriptures which describe those apart from God. This must be acknowledged if I am to begin to settle the question of who I am in relation to Him. We are first made aware that we are people following the prince of the power of the air, hopeless, dead in trespasses, orphans, exiles— all the negative adjectives nouns— We are those who need rescue. I feel all those adjectives deeply as they give voice to the part of my soul that longs to be pulled from despair. Clearly, we need a new identity if there is to be peace in all the parts of our souls that ask, Who am I?

After a rich explanation of our need in the first several chapters of the book of Romans, Paul voices a response to God after having his eyes opened to his own sin. I have written about this before, yet I feel my soul repeating it when I continue to come to terms with the depths of my own need. When we become aware of who we are before God,  our response isn’t, Sovereign Lord. It isn’t Righteous Ruler. Not Deliverer. It is, “Abba! Father!” We look to Him as a child looks to his or her dad, knowing the only real help comes from Him. Our hearts are like lifted arms, only to be made aware that He has been pulling us up by our hands all along. This is the chosen way God shows Himself to a people who are made aware of exactly who they are. There is nothing more to say, nothing to explain, nothing to do but see Him and press in to the awareness that He is our Father. 

God is I AM, our Father, one with authority and paternity. In the way He chooses to reveal Himself as Father, He relates to us and by default says you are.

But God— being rich in mercy made those lost to Him, found. He sent Jesus to seek them, to live for them, to die for them, and to be raised again for the hope of eternity— all so He can name them. The adjectives and nouns no longer change in relation to Him. The title is no longer up in the air. It is settled once and for all.

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his son into your hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.  Galatians 4:4-7

The one who carries the name above all names has named us. He has initiated, maintains, and promises to wholly ~body and soul~ restore our relationship, complete with the benefits of the only righteous Son and rightful Heir, who gives His righteousness  and rightfulness to His inheritance to us.

We all want to be called someone significant who is loved and cherished, who is accepted and forever belongs. And because God calls Jesus, Son, and because we are in Him, we are sons and daughters. And not only are we sons and daughters, but we are heirs, beloved, and forever belonging. The blanks we seek to fill-in with all the relationships we have in our lifetime will vary. But we no longer have to ask the question, Who am I? If God, our Father, is who He says He is, then we are who He says we are.

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, thou knowest, O God, I am thine.

link:  D. Bonhoeffer

Hearing His word settles me down— as only the voice of a loving parent can settle and sooth, because His words do not hang on anything other than who He is and what He has done. The struggle now is to believe— to convince my mind, not yet whole, that I am becoming who I already am. I can hear it a thousand different ways today and need to hear it again tomorrow. Sinner and Saint. Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.

 

 

 

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