I ran into Ted, a longtime campus minister I served with in the 1980s. I asked him what has changed with students over the past 30 years.
He responded immediately with matter-of-fact lament, "Oh, they don't know who they are!" He walked among those facing an identity crisis.
Who am I?
Nowadays, that shows up as a popular, and quite personal, question. How does one answer the question of "who-ness," of identity?
While prospective answers abound, many tend to compress the matter into terms of pedigree ("I am from or related to ... "), politics ("I am with or for ... ), profile ("I am 'liked or followed' by ... ) or some sort of personal preference ("I am about and into, or identify with ... ).
Meanwhile, others default into descriptive mode, using titles and attributes to answer the inquiry. For example, I am Craig: husband, father, white, middle-aged, middle-class, male, reflective, dry-witted, almost 6-foot-1.
Be that as it may, do these qualities make me "who I be"? Or may I reach beyond individual identifiers, in order to expand the question in terms of "be-longing"?
What if who I am is based on whose I am?
After all, I belong to Jesus; my life, my identity, is in him. Nothing can change this (Romans 8). Jesus gives me new life, a new disposition, a new direction. In him, I am a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).
I am not my own.
As comprehended in the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism: "What is your only comfort in life and in death?" Answer: "That I am not my own, but belong - body and soul, in life and in death - to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ..."
While confessed as an individual, this identity calls me to live, and to love, within a community, a fellowship, a family. "See what kind of love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are." (I John 3)
My daughter once posted in bold letters on her bedroom door: "Megan Davis is a Child of God." This declares identity indeed! And when posted in a heart as well, such a succinct statement sinks into the soul, offering identity comfort.
Relatedly, the question of who I am finds direct relation to having a living relationship with the Great I AM.
As the Bible reveals, God identifies himself as the LORD, "I AM" (Exodus 3). As the self-existent sovereign, he delivers his people from bondage and leads them into a land of promise and rest. This salvation happened in the Old Testament (see Exodus-Joshua), and pointed to a greater salvation in the New Testament when Jesus came in the flesh as Savior and Lord.
Significantly, in John's gospel Jesus declares that he is I AM! - "I AM speaks to you ... I AM! Do not fear! ... I AM the bread of life ... I AM the light of the world ... . Before Abraham was born, I AM ... I AM the door for the sheep ... I AM the good shepherd ... I AM the resurrection and the life ... . I AM the way and the truth and the life ... I AM the true vine ... I told you that I AM." This repeated "I AM" reference reveals identity: Jesus is God; Jesus is Lord. (Philippians 2)
Because Jesus came as I AM, I can come to him as I am.
As the old hymn confesses: "Just as I am, without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me, and that Thou bid'st me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come, I come!"
In I AM is who I am.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Rev. Dr. Craig Davis shepherds his four kids and the Grace United Reformed Church congregation; he is a Tri-City Herald Spiritual Life contributor and enjoys baseball, live performance art, solitude and the company of his wife. Email: email@example.com
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