Our Fall 2015 sermon series considers the different I AM statements that Christ makes in the Gospel of John: I Am the I Am, the shepherd, the resurrection, the way, the true vine. In this process of gaining a better understanding of who Jesus proclaims himself to be, we journey together as a community in understanding who we are in light of our relationship with Jesus. This blog series continues this theme as it draws on the stories and identities of All Souls community.
Self-help books, personality quizzes, ‘spirit animals’. Industries are built around the idea of ‘finding ourselves’ – some of which are indulgent and silly, others are useful, and some are deleterious. But, the idea makes sense – if we can understand ourselves, our world, our relationships just a little bit more, perhaps some of the pain, confusion, and miscommunication in our lives can be pared down.
I love learning and exploring: I have this idea that I can probably handle just about anything as long as I understand the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ (and preferably the other 3 W’s). But I recently had a friend tell me this probably means that I like being in control – perhaps too much. And I’ve recently recognized in my faith journey – and life in general – that this is an area God has been working in for a long time, bringing me ever forward on a path which mostly involves trust, obedience, and…faith.
Faith that even if I have no idea what, why, or even where I am headed, God’s got it. That’s it. He’s got it. And it’s up to me to figure out whether or not I want to choose to obey – to follow, to walk, to trust. And while I’m just beginning to recognize the breadth and steadfastness of this aspect of God in my life, I’m finding some exhilarating freedom in this opportunity to choose obedience.
But it’s also really, really hard. I just finished my Ph.D.; but I’ve never really wanted one. I never saw myself in graduate school, and I really never saw myself in engineering.
I grew up wanting to be a missionary in Africa. All those scary sermons where they tell you about ‘sacrificing for God’ and ‘giving up your comforts’ and such? That wasn’t hard for me. I loved the idea of moving overseas (with my equally passionate and medically-gifted husband by my side, of course) to work with orphans, live without makeup or cars or suburban comforts, and to spend my life adventuring and making a difference.
But here I am: I just finished a Ph.D. that I never wanted in the first place. I live in what might be one of the most comfortable and beautiful cities in the US, not one of the poverty-stricken regions of the world where I’ve always pictured myself. I find myself single when I thought I’d be happily married at this point.
How did I get here? God was exceptionally clear about calling me to graduate school. I have spent a good amount of time overseas, coming to the conclusion that it may not be where God is calling me – at least not right now. I’ve had my heart broken, badly. The people I thought would be in my life forever, and many of the ways I defined myself, are gone. Injuries, jobs, relationships – life – just got in the way. And as God continues to remove these things, it often feels lonely and confusing.
So the question of how “I AM” defines who I am is an answer that is in many ways antithetical to all the self-help and advice books: the more I ask God about who I am and pray to “find my identity in Christ”, the more clear His answer is: “obey”.
Just – obey.
But, maybe that is the answer I’ve been praying for. Instead of giving me a husband at the time I want one, an ‘adventure mission’, and fulfilling any of the comfortable ideas I have for myself, God hasn’t actually given me many answers. Instead, He has faithfully given me just enough to obey what He calls me to at any given moment.
It’s kind of uncomfortable. It’s really frustrating. But it’s also beautiful; it’s freeing; it’s grace. And it’s everything I never knew how to ask for.