“When I get honest with myself, I admit that I am a bundle of paradoxes.” — Brennan Manning


Psalm 139:13-16
Isaiah 43:1-7
John 15:14-15

“The trick to life: stop trying to be something and just be what you are and love it.” Thus reads the inspirational scrawling on the paper towel dispenser in my favorite cafe’s restroom. The handwriting and adolescent angst indicate the work of a teenager.

Obviously, someone had grown tired of the endless struggle to meet a nebulous cultural expectation about appearance, attitude, activities and general persona. He decided to stick with what he’d begun – himself. He’d let the rest sort itself out because any other way would involve too much soul-contortionism.  “To thine own self be true” he’d heard somewhere, and now he was offering his twist on the classic line.

It’s exceedingly difficult for the vast majority of us to do “be what [we] are “because we have no clue what that means.  Who knows who and what they are?  At what point in the educational process or in your parents’ tutelage did you hear someone tell you, “Discover who and what you are”?  Certainly, you heard, “What do you want to be”? and “What do you want to do”? from age three until those unguided post-college years.  Thus you’ve run after numerous rainbows with pots of career gold at the end, hoping to stave off questions about your contributions to society and your 401 (k).  But no one taught you to ask yourself, “Who am I?” How could you know?

Perhaps you can know something: you’re a son or a daughter, a brother or a sister or an only child; you’re a friend, a father, a mother, a husband, a wife; you’re a clerk, an attorney, a student, a teacher, a salesman, a waitress. But do any of these roles really tell you who and what you are other than one of the roles you play? Do these begin to touch on your essence, your deeper personality, your spirit, your unique make-up? After all, everyone is some or many of these roles.

Roles don’t answer, “Who am I?”

Even if you did ask these questions of identity, how do you find the answers? What criteria to you apply?  What authority confers value, meaning, identity upon you?  There’s a shortage of teachers and professors in this field.  We have plenty of them instructing us on everything from astrophysics to zoology, but no one teaching us about how to discover who we are.  This precious information eludes us.

What did the Teacher do?  How did Jesus understand himself, his identity? Jesus found his identity in his Father, as John chapters 5-10 make so clear.  He continued to draw strength and clarity in his connection to the Father.  He cared only for how his Father saw him.  He thought of himself as his Father thought of him-as his son.  He then lived accordingly.

If we want to follow Jesus, and seek to know our authentic selves, we should heed his example. Looking to the Father, we can know the answer to the question, “Who am I?”

What does John 14:10-14 say about Jesus’ identity?
What does it say about the identity of Jesus’ followers?


© 2006