Tag Archives: who am I

In His Presence

The most important revelation of our lives, the fact that makes the most serious change in us, is the understanding that other people are real.  This happens so early in our lives that we have long forgotten its impact, yet we continue to struggle with this knowledge throughout our days.  So important is this understanding that those who fail to grasp it are handicapped in their relationships and in their daily lives.

In many ways, our television and internet culture has made this even more difficult for us.  Our feelings—emotional connections—for people are manipulated and twisted by fictional stories designed to move us to empathize with people who are not real.  Then, when we see others, perhaps on the news, we feel something less than empathy.  Someone loses their home in a fire; someone’s child dies in a war; someone is hurt in an accident—and we say that’s too bad.  But we will never meet them, never be able to help them in a personal way, and never really care.  The news is just one more source of entertainment, albeit one that isn’t fiction (or so we are told).

I suspect this is part of the reason for the increase in reality shows.  We desire relationship and we want it to be real.  Fiction pulls at our hearts, but offers no connection that will reveal our identity.  I might care about Macbeth or Jean Valjean or Jack Bauer, but I learn nothing about myself in a fictional character.  Somehow the fact that the person in a reality show is a real person seems to promise more to me.  I believe that I might actually be able to connect with the person.  Sadly, the deception of the reality show is that there is little reality involved.

You see, I learn about myself through the eyes and thoughts of others.  In fiction or television I can see them, but they cannot see me.  I need them to see me.  They are the real mirrors in which I learn about myself.

Perhaps you can remember an experience where you suddenly realize that a person sees you, really sees you.  They might have a funny look about them.  They might be looking right into your eyes.  It isn’t a bad thing, but it can be unnerving.  Something has been revealed and you are moved to understand what it was.  And you learn.

And when you realize that a personal God really sees you, you as an individual, the doors to eternity open.  Suddenly your relationship with Him holds the promise of revealing the truth about you.

In response to the last post on identity, TacticianJenro asked how our relationship with Jesus can be personal.  If that is the relationship we are to have with Him, how does it happen?  This is the question that centers our faith and rocks our world.  This is the most important question of our lives.

The answer is intensely personal, yet as simple as the development of any relationship.  Let me risk a few basic suggestions.

  1. Believe that He is real.  Not just an idea, but a Person.
  2. Believe that He has an interest in you.  He sees you.  He knows when you lie down and when you get up, as David said.  He knows what you like and what you want and what you are afraid of and what you struggle against and what you worry about.  He knows more about you than you know about you.  And He loves you.
  3. Believe that He is with you.  He never leaves you.  He is always near.  These are things the Scriptures make very clear.

He is real.  He loves you.  He is with you.  This is not fiction or deception.  This is reality and it makes a difference.

Now, live as though you believe this.  Think about Him.  Talk with Him.  Ask Him things and expect answers.  Walk through life with Him.  That’s what the Christian life is all about.  Service, sacrifice, devotion—all the things of the Christian life that we were taught—all come out of this reality of His presence or they are just more fiction.

The relationship of a young man and a young woman is about being with each other.  They spend time together and learn.  In the process they each learn about the other, but they also learn about themselves.  The more time they spend together, the more they are able to give of themselves.  The more they give of themselves, the more they see and receive from the other.  This is how a relationship is supposed to work.

Our relationship with Jesus is nothing less than the most precious relationship in our lives, but it is just as simple as presence.  Learn to live in His presence.  Let that be your prayer.  The goal and the activity of the rest of your life.

And in the process, you will be becoming who you are.

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Finding Myself

Grace 101

 

I am loved.  Jesus loves me, this I know.  It’s such a simple message, but it shines its light to the very core of our being.  Jesus brings the reality of God to my life.  He tells me who I am.

The One in charge of all things, the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, loves me.  There is no why or how, there is just the simple fact of His love.  In relationship with Him, I find myself.  I am someone who is loved.  I am special and valuable and worthy—all because of Him. 

You see, it really doesn’t matter what I think of myself.  Most of us think worse of ourselves than we should, I suppose.  Some think too highly of themselves.  But I will never consider an identity I have chosen for myself to be valid because identity needs confirmation.  Identity is established in relationship.

When I look past others like me because their perspective is too much like my own, and I look past the untouchable ideas of the Universe or Nature or, in some cases, God, because I can’t hear their judgments of me—then I still look for a Person.  That Person is Jesus, God in human flesh.  There is so much about Him that I do not and can not understand, but I know that I can live in relationship with Him.  He accepts me and I discover who I am.

I am who I am in Him.  Chosen, loved, accepted, valued—that’s me! 

The search for identity is fulfilled in relationship with Jesus.  Please notice that I say nothing about religion or faith or performance.  When I see Him as a Person and understand how He sees me as a person, that’s when it all begins.  Religion can give rules and doctrines, but not a relationship.  Many who claim to be His don’t know Him.  That’s what He said would happen. 

But to those who come to Him, to those He gives rest.  “Come unto me all you who are weak and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)  That’s what He said.  Rest from work?  Hardly.  Rest from spiritual striving?  Sure, but there’s more.  This is rest for our souls.  Rest from the search.  Rest from the unknowing.  Rest from the fear and anxiety of wondering who we really are.  The answer is found in Him.

Please also notice that this answer is not something that can be found outside of Him.  You might discover what He thinks of you, the fact, but it will not satisfy until it is found in Him.  Identity is lived in relationship. 

In Jesus I found myself.  I finally learned the truth about who I am.  Now—if I can but remember—I can live forever in peace.

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A Person

Grace 101

One on one relationships are difficult for those with identity problems.  That makes sense, doesn’t it?

Narcissists, for example, often do very well in crowds or groups but struggle in personal relationships.  The famous line from Linus in Peanuts is, “I love mankind, it’s people I can’t stand.”  We understand that.  Individual people, persons, can be very difficult for us to enjoy.  Individuals test our identity.

Basically, this means I can be whoever I want in a group.  Groups require little from my identity.  I tell them who I am.  They might not accept me, but they don’t challenge my assertions about who I am.  But individuals expect something more from us.

When I put myself out for you to see, I expect you to do the same.  But if either of us is lying, the relationship is false.  You may not be dealing with the real me.  In a group that probably doesn’t matter, but in a marriage or almost any kind of personal relationship, it matters.  People, individuals, want to know the real you or me.

I think it is fair to say that a group is an idea.  A church or a club or even a family is a structure that defines the accumulation of individuals with a certain purpose or attribute.  But a person is something real, something substantial.  Dealing with a person is what defines us.

Now, I am going to step out on a limb here.  I think it is very easy for us to keep God in the place of an idea.  God has all kinds of attributes and we can say that we relate to Him sort of generically, but it is difficult for us to find our identity in relationship with an idea.  Understand that I am not saying that God is simply an idea.  I am saying that it is easy for many to think of Him in that way.  In fact, I think that much of constituency of the church thinks of God as nothing more than an idea.  He is the source of standards, judgment, provision, protection, and more—but they don’t really have a relationship with Him.  He is distant in much the same way as a group is distant in their minds.

But Jesus is a person.  There is something fundamentally different in God presented in Jesus.  He is personal.  He is an individual.

And in Him I find my identity.  I am who I am in relationship with Him.

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Identity in Relationship

Grace 101

 

Identity is formed in relationship.  If you were the only person you could experience, you would think that the whole world was about you.  As it is, it can be difficult to remember that others have valid lives and needs.  We see only through our own eyes, hear only through our own ears, and experience life only from our own perspective.  It can be challenging to stop and think of others.

I think this is why we are raised in families, so that we are forced to see others and to see ourselves through their eyes.  Each person adds a little more to the picture we learn of ourselves.  If things worked right, we would grow strong and healthy and happy as we see our place and role in the group around us.

But things are not working right, are they?  We live among sinners in a world filled with sin.  Everyone is afraid.  Everyone fights for a place of value and respect.  Instead of caring for and supporting others, we use each other to get what we want.  That’s what sin does.  This is especially true in times of trauma.  It is natural for us to withdraw into ourselves for our protection.  So, when we are afraid or stressed, we tend to think more about ourselves.  And, in the world of sin, trauma or potential trauma are always around us.

The Christian context reveals that there are two types of identity.  The most obvious is the one shared by all people: Who I am in relation to others.  I learn that I am good at certain things, that other things make me afraid, or that I desire to grow in certain areas.  These things distinguish me from others.  Some are athletic.  Some are cerebral.  Some are practical.  Some are social.  The combinations of these and other characteristics give definition to us.

Much of this is learned when we are very young.  When the family relationship is dysfunctional, identity within human relationship can seriously suffer.  If I fail to adequately learn who I am, or if I form a negative perspective of who I am, then my relationships throughout my life may suffer.  This is the experience of too many people.

But there is another level of identity.  After a time, most people begin to ask a deeper question.  Life is more than being able to do something.  I am more than my vocation and there is more to me than the fact that I like some things others do not.  Sometimes we go through life changes that force us into other roles or we have to give up things we like.  The role we have played among others becomes unavailable and we wonder if there is something more.

After times of loss or times of deep introspection, we begin to ask about our place in the world as a whole, not just among our friends and family.  “Who am I” becomes “What am I.”  Why am I here and what is my real purpose?  The search for those answers changes everything.

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Can I lose my identity?

Grace 101

 

Suppose you decided that you were afraid of banks and you took all your savings and other money in cash and put it in a special safe in your basement.  For a while, everything is good.  When you need money, you go down to get some.  When you get money, you put it in the safe.  The system works fine.

Until you lose the key.

Something happens to distract you and you put the key somewhere, but you can’t remember where.  Suddenly your money isn’t available to you.  When you need it, you can’t get to it.

But here’s a question: Did you lose your money?  Of course not.  It’s still right where you put it.  You own it and it’s yours.  But you don’t have access to it because of that distraction that made you lose the key.

Now, can you lose your identity?  Well, there is a sense in Christian teaching that all people lost their identity when sin entered the world.  In Adam, we all lost the identity that was supposed to be ours.  In fact, much of life consists of trying to rebuild or refashion an identity.  Identity apart from Christ is part of the flesh and part of the deception.

But believers cannot lose their identity because Jesus is our life.  What He says about us is true even when we forget it.

And there’s the rub: identity can be forgotten.  The distraction comes—a relationship, a temptation, a decision—and the rabbit trail leads away from the truth.  Feelings and bad logic assert themselves and give false information.  It certainly is not uncommon for a believer to forget his identity.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that some people never really learned the truth about their identity.  Some people receive such poor teaching about their relationship with the Lord that they never find the assurance and acceptance they should experience in Christ.  They think they must still try hard to get what they already have.

But all the things you received in the package of salvation are yours to keep.  They define you.  They reveal your identity.  You are righteous.  You are free.  You are strong.  This is who you are, even when you forget.

And, yes, sometimes life gets so distracting that it is easy to forget the truth.  The lie sounds so right, so close to the truth, that it just has to lead you a little off the path.  Pretty soon you find it hard to get back.  But when you can see the truth again, you rediscover who you are in Christ.  Your identity hasn’t changed.

This is what I meant by saying that identity does not suffer when abused.  The real you is still the same person.  Your circumstances might be different and you might be a little smarter now, but all the things you found in Christ are yours.

You see, our identity flows out of Him.  Our security is in Him.  Even our own forgetfulness or distraction, even our own denial, cannot change the truth of who we are in Him.

Thanks to those who asked about this.  Let me know if this helps or if it causes more questions. 🙂

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I Am

Grace 101

Did you ever notice how confident Jesus was about His identity?  He doesn’t try to “find Himself” or seek to assert His individuality.  The youngest report we have of Him after His birth is when He was twelve.  At that age He told His parents that He had a call to do His “Father’s business.”  It appears that His identity was secure even then.

And consider how often Jesus uses the phrase, “I am. . .”  “I am the Way.  I am the Door.  I am the Good Shepherd.  I am the Resurrection.”  He understood who He was.

Of course, when Moses asked for the name of God, the Lord told him simply, “I AM.”  That was enough and the Jews called the Lord, “He who is,” from that time on.

The “I am” statement is powerful.  Not only does it communicate our identity to others, it establishes it in our own hearts and minds.  Believers should use it often as we face the accusations of the world, the flesh, and the devil.

I have shared this somewhere before, but this list of statements from Freedom in Christ Ministries is very good.  I have included the link to their website, which has a lot more information on identity.  You can get this list from them as a printed poster, but just read these through—out loud— regularly to remind yourself who you are now.  (The formatting is better on their site.)

http://www.ficm.org/index.php?command=textwhoamiinchrist

I am accepted…

 

John 1:12 I am God’s child.
John 15:15 As a disciple, I am a friend of   Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:1 I have been justified.
1 Corinthians 6:17 I am united with the Lord, and I   am one with Him in spirit.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 I have been bought with a price   and I belong to God.
1 Corinthians 12:27 I am a member of Christ’s body.
Ephesians 1:3-8 I have been chosen by God and   adopted as His child.
Colossians 1:13-14 I have been redeemed and forgiven   of all my sins.
Colossians 2:9-10 I am complete in Christ.
Hebrews 4:14-16 I have direct access to the throne   of grace through Jesus Christ.
 

 

I am secure…

 

Romans 8:1-2 I am free from condemnation.
Romans 8:28 I am assured that God works for my   good in all circumstances.
Romans 8:31-39 I am free from any condemnation   brought against me and I cannot be separated from the love of God.
2 Corinthians 1:21-22 I have been established, anointed   and sealed by God.
Colossians 3:1-4 I am hidden with Christ in God.
Philippians 1:6 I am confident that God will   complete the good work He started in me.
Philippians 3:20 I am a citizen of heaven.
2 Timothy 1:7 I have not been given a spirit of   fear but of power, love and a sound mind.
1 John 5:18 I am born of God and the evil one   cannot touch me.
 

 

I am significant…

 

John 15:5 I am a branch of Jesus Christ, the   true vine, and a channel of His life.
John 15:16 I have been chosen and appointed   to bear fruit.
1 Corinthians 3:16 I am God’s temple.
2 Corinthians 5:17-21 I am a minister of reconciliation   for God.
Ephesians 2:6 I am seated with Jesus Christ in   the heavenly realm.
Ephesians 2:10 I am God’s workmanship.
Ephesians 3:12 I may approach God with freedom   and confidence.
Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through   Christ, who strengthens me.

 

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