Walking Our Faith: Who do you say I am? (column)
Walking Our Faith
When Adeline, my mother, announced at the age of 88, that she wanted to move from our home in Evergreen, back to her condo in Florida, she explained it as follows: “I was my mother’s daughter, until I married your father and became his wife, and then your mother. I have always wanted to live on my own, to see what it would be like to just be me.”
As we grow from child to adult, we constantly confront labels that define our roles in life: student, teacher, sibling, parent, caretaker, cared for. Even in our spiritual life, we will either label ourselves, to align ourselves with a particular group, or to differentiate ourselves from one another. We are no longer Christians, we are Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, convert, non-denominational or any myriad of constantly evolving labels. Once again we have determined what we are, but have we asked what that means?
Last night I asked God, “Who do you say I am?”
God replied (to me, to you), “You are my prodigal child, and though you wander far away, I am always waiting to welcome you home. You are my finest work of creation, I formed you from the dust of the earth, with the creative power to explore the stars.”
In our daily lives, we constantly strive to move forward, to attain a higher position, a greater income, to turn back the hands of time and ask our bodies to become younger and fitter even as we grow older. At some point, we stop the endless pursuit and ask if we are we the person we dreamt of becoming, when we were children?
Whether this moment of reckoning comes when we are young or old, we will make an assessment of our lives and choose whether to remain as we are or to chart a new course. If we are lucky, the answer will be yes, because what is life without growth?
This may cause us to embark on a dramatic course correction, to become our true self, who got lost among the labels we acquired in our journey to adulthood. Like my mother, who decided to find out what it would be like to live independently, we will be brave and go and discover our true selves. Or discovering our contentment with who we have become, we may choose a path that stretches us in a new direction, perhaps by sharing our gifts with others.
These moments of confronting our mortality can come when we are old or young or somewhere in between. I imagine they come when we are questioning everything else in our lives. And like cleaning out a long-neglected closet, as we purge things which no longer serve us we discover what is missing. When my father reached a certain age, a few years before he passed away, he stopped in the parking lot of a darkened shopping center, on a rain strewn night, and took an assessment of his beliefs and wrote a statement of his relationship with Jesus Christ on the pages of a yellow legal pad.
I believe these crossroads are when many of us come back to church or embark on a journey to discover what God means to us and what we mean to him. This search for spiritual identity is of vital importance in our search for personal identity.
We ask God, “Who do you say I am?” Henri Nouwen a priest, author and teacher, suggested God’s response might sound like this: “‘I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have written your name in the palm of my hand … molded you in the depths of the earth, knitted you in your mother’s womb …’ If you can hear this divine voice … your life will become more and more the life of the beloved because that is who you are.” (Discernment, Nouwen)
When we truly internalize our most important personal identity as a beloved child of God, our perception of ourselves is kinder, we understand our precious value, our hope for the future grows. We are loved by God, the Alpha and Omega, without limit and without end. We are beloved. With this as our inheritance we can do so much more than we ever imagined. We can become who we were meant to be.
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson is the author of “A Map of Heaven.” She lives in Breckenridge. Join her at Facebook.com/suzanneelizabeths or SuzanneElizabeths.com.
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