Who Am I?
I know there's a place you walked
Where love falls from the trees
My heart is like a broken cup
I only feel right on my knees
I spit out like a sewer hole
Yet still receive your kiss
How can I measure up to anyone now
After such a love as this?
Well, who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
Oh, tell me, who are you?
That’s a good question Mr. Townsend. Who is He? Who am I? I think these may be the most important questions we ask. We live in transition. My best friend a year ago I hardly speak to now. We change. Situations and circumstances change. And as they change, we leave people behind. Some of them just don’t fit into our new dynamic – it’s nothing personal.
We have more connections but are less connected. Our best friend lives hundreds of miles away and we have never actually met in person. Who are they, really? I’m an introvert so my circle is rather small to begin with. I’m not even sure as I sit here how many close friends I really have: 1? 3? 30?
The world changes and we change with it; constant reinvention of ourselves in order to stay relevant. Some of us want to matter. More and more, it seems to me that most of us just want to be left alone. Some want revolution and take action. Some others want it too but do nothing more than complain. Others just don’t care. With all this constant movement, it is easy to lose people – it is easy to lose ourselves. What am I? Who am I? What / who do I want to be? What / who am I SUPPOSED to be? Who gets to say? How do I define me?
We define ourselves by the friends we keep, or by our habits, personality, work, income – it goes on and on – we catalog and compartmentalize ourselves and each other. Our souls are schizophrenic. Now I am an employee, later a husband and father, sometimes a Christian, sometimes a failure; not often enough, a friend. Here is the reality: we allow external things to identify who we are, and that’s a problem. Or worse, in our current society, whatever we think we are in our broken imagination is our realized identity, no matter the evidence to the contrary! Only God knows you. So strip it all down – in times of crisis, loss and pain…who are you?
We build fantasies about who we are. We want to be good looking or noble. We are the hero of our story. I was always a runt in my family. The men in my family are all over 6’ tall and as strong as oxen. My cousin and I were born 2 days apart and we were always close. He however was tall, strong, athletic and charming. I was small, bookish, artistic and awkward. Often at family events we were told to stand back to back. The comments would be, “My how he has grown! What’s wrong with Brian? We need to put fertilizer in his shoes so he can get big and strong like his cousin.” It devastated and humiliated me. I was wrong, somehow. I did not measure up. I was not good enough. I was less than almost everyone and everything it seemed. I bore the same last name but I did not fit the mold of the men in my family. So who was I? Where did I belong? How did I belong? What was I supposed to be?
I often go to 1 Peter 2: 9 - 10 to reorient my identity: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” Through Peter, this is who God says I am.
I am chosen.
Sit and dwell on the depth of this. God, father and creator of all, desires to have me as part of his family. Me. You. Remember what it is like to be wanted, to be recognized and valued just for being you? Remember the pain of rejection, when you are thrown out with the trash, of no value any longer, not wanted, not chosen, maybe even rejected and someone else was chosen to take your place? Remember how you felt lost, adrift, feeling you have no worth to anyone, heart crushed? Go back to Jesus. In verse 4 it says that Jesus was chosen…and you are too. This joins us together with him. God picks you to be on his team with his son, Jesus. You are not the last person standing and he has to take you because there is no other option. He wants you. Let it sink in. He values you? Why? What do I have to offer God? Nothing. That’s not the point. His love is the point. He delights in you. You bring a smile to his face. He has assigned you value because of his great love for you. He sacrificed for you. He chooses you.
I am part of his people.
Now get this. I am not chosen to sit on the shelf as a favorite toy. I am part of his tribe. I belong to something, not just to God, but to his people. I belong to you. You belong to me. We are a family. Families are messy, but that’s ok. We belong together. We need each other. The health and vitality of the tribe relies on you to be an active part. You have value to us as a body. We need you to be in this mix with us. We are chosen to be God’s tribe, God’s family, God’s peeps – together.
I am royal.
Now God is just getting crazy. I am royalty? Yes. Not pauper, but prince. Not victim, but victor. Not slave, but son. Not beggar, but beloved. So what does that mean? Our father is the King. The prince has access to the king that others do not. We share in his authority and power. He is honored and so I am honored. My destiny is great and I am secure. He is king for eternity and we can dwell with the king. He is a different kind of king, of course. He doesn’t sit in his castle and demand that his peasants pay him tribute that they don’t have. He invites his peasants to be adopted into his royal family! He serves the least. He has compassion on the outcast and the downcast. And if I am a part of his royal people, I should emulate my king. I can go in his power and authority to show others the blessings of this king.
I am a priest.
This is a staggering responsibility. A priest represents God to the people and the people to God. We have quite the mandate as a royal priest, to be the body and voice of God to the people. But it also means we have access. The priest can come near to God, into his presence. We have the privilege of being near God, dwelling with him in his temple, or rather, as the temple of the Holy Spirit, He dwells with us.
I am holy, set apart to be his very own people. God has separated us out to be his. He has made us pure and blameless, consecrated to be in his service. You and I share his purity. Would I trade in my stains for his purity? Would I trade in my guilt for his perfection? Where can I sign up for that!
I am part of his nation.
What makes a nation? A nation can be a community of people who share a history, traditions, culture, governing principles and, often, language—even if the group does not have a country of its own. People within this type of nation share a common identity, and think of themselves as belonging to the same group. We are part of a nation without a country. We have a shared history – we were all lost but now have been found. Christian the world over share some of the same traditions – worship, prayer, communion, baptism. We are part of the culture of heaven. Our government is God himself – He rules and reigns and we are his loving, loyal subjects. Think of it – Jesus brings people together from all parts of the world to be part of his national family. We all bring different gifts and customs and languages and history and traditions…and yet we share many of those things as well. It is one big melting pot of humanity united under 1 King. He wants you to be a part of that.
Again, we belong, we are part of an exclusive club – those chosen by God to be his children. Have you ever been at a party or event or on a team but you knew you didn’t belong? You were just along for the ride. Here you belong. Here you have value. Here you can make an impact. Here is a task and a time just for you to shine. You belong here on this team with Jesus.
I am called out.
Have you ever been the last person chosen to join the team? I used to hate that. The 2 biggest jocks in our class would get to pick teams. I choose Frank. I’ll take Mary. Give me Carl. On and on it goes…until you are the last one not chosen – no one has called your name. In fact maybe even Jock #1 says, “You can take Brian, I don’t want him.” But that is not the case here. Jesus has called your name. To be called out is not just to be selected and left deep out in right field in the waist high weeds. No, you have been called out for a particular mission. Do you remember the opening of the old Mission Impossible episodes? Peter Graves would go through agent dossiers and select the right people with the right set of skills for that particular mission. Well, you have a certain set of skills that makes you perfect for the mission God has set in place for you and He has called you to join him in his work.
I have received mercy.
Oh how I need that! If we critically look at the course of our lives, we - well, maybe not you, but I make huge blunders. I’ve hurt people. I’ve made bad choices. I’ve sinned countless times. It is a RELIEF to have a place to deposit all my failures and wounds and fears, and doubts and neglects and angers. All my couldas, shouldas and wouldas can be laid down at the foot of the cross and I can receive mercy.
Now if this is true of me, if I am really these things that God says I am, how should I respond? How should I live? How should I think about myself? It is a helpful exercise to read this passage (and others like it: John 1:12; John 15:15; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Ephesians 1:3-8; Colossians 1:13-14; Colossians 2:9-10; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 2:10) and answer these questions. Write down your answers and share them with a friend. Let the truth of your identity in Christ reorient your thinking, your feeling and your living.
- How should I think of myself?
- How should I feel about myself?
- How should I respond to perceived or real rejection?
- How does it feel to be a child of the king?
- How does that impact how I feel about myself?
- How does that impact how I feel when others reject me?
- Now comes the correction. If I really understood the full impact of being accepted as a child of God & being a friend of Jesus, how would I answer the above questions?
- Now it is time to pray for God to fix the disconnect and make these truths really true for you.
- Now read your response to questions 7 and 8. Then sit before The Lord and wait on him. Ask him to guard your heart against the lies of the enemy and to reveal his truth to you. Then write what you sense him saying. Trust that he is leading your intuition and thoughts. This is the second part of prayer, listening. Accept that you may not hear perfectly, that your thoughts will get in the way at times. You can always edit out the “you” stuff from the God stuff. Write down what He says.
I'll go back to Pete Townsend to close this out: “Can you see the real me doctor? Mother? Preacher?” Jesus does, Pete. Jesus does. And he loves you, just as you are, not how you should be. Because none of us are as we should be.