6 a. m. I poured myself a cup of french press coffee, opened my treasured Moleskine journal, and starting reading a small book that a friend had recommended, The Gift of Being Yourself by David Benner. In all honesty, I was embarrassed to have this book in my Amazon shopping cart because it seemed a little too self-help and self-involved. Also, I’m turning 34 years old soon, and I had hoped to know who I am by this time. But I was desperate. The complexity of trying to be a good pastor, father, husband, friend, and man had left me feeling a little lost. My identity felt up for grabs, and the demands of life were spreading me too thin. I cracked open the cover and read a beautiful quote from Thomas Merton:
“There is only one problem on which all my existence, my peace, and my happiness depend: to discover myself in discovering God. If I find Him, I will find myself, and if I find my true self, I will find Him.”
I was envious of Merton’s passion for finding his true self, and was a little surprised at his connection between discovering God and discovering his true self. On paper, it seemed like a great pursuit, but deep down I still doubted that knowing God would help me to know my true self. They seemed like two different journeys. God is God. And I’m just Will. Pursuing a knowledge of God, it seemed, would only help me understand what I’m not.
It took further reflection and conversations with trusted friends to realize that Merton may have been on to something. It’s only in finding our true creator that we begin to discover ourselves as His good creation. I think he’s asking us to gaze upon the God named ‘I Am That I Am.’ And when I begin to discover I AM I start to discover who i am.
This discovering seemed to have worked well for Jesus. I have always been jealous of Jesus, for just about everything that He did. He was the perfect preacher with miracles resting on His finger tips. He continuously cared for the poor and broken, and loved a good party as well as praying alone in the early morning. Still, one of the things I find myself most impressed by was Jesus’ humble confidence. Its one thing to be described as humble, what I often fail to see is someone who carries the character of humility and confidence. Jesus knew who he was, or maybe better said, whose he was. He didn’t seem to let the complexity of his culture define his identity. In the Gospel of John, I see that Jesus’ confidence in his God-centered identity: again and again he would make breath-taking claims saying, “I am the light of world…I am the bread of life…I am the good shepherd…I am the way, truth and life.” Yet when Jesus said them he didn’t come off as cocky, just comfortable. His identity was so deeply rooted in knowing God. This is what I find myself longing for. To be so deeply rooted in the love and purposes of God. So often I strive to create my own identity, yet Jesus shows me that the best way to know myself is to know and hear from the One who created me.
My relationships define me in many ways. I am: father, husband, friend, pastor, son, and citizen. These relationships define my schedule, my values, and the shape of my life. What Jesus seems most concerned with is making sure my relationship with God (Father, Son, and Spirit) has a seat at the table; letting God help define my identity as Beloved, Image of God, Child of God, part of the Body of Christ