Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Quest: Who are you?

Amnesia.  You know.  It's one of those devices we see on TV and in made-for-TV movies.  A woman, normally a suspect in a murder or an essential witness, gets hit on the head or has a car accident, or some other traumatic experience, and suddenly she don't know who she is and can't remember anything.  Sometimes it's a man, but normally it's a woman.  I don't know why.

Sometimes the story takes more shape.  Like in The Bourne Identity.  Jason Bourne's true identity gets wiped clean when he's trained as a CIA assassin.  He forgets his new identity after a failed attempt on his own life.  He wakes up on a fishing vessel and has no idea who he is.  Evading the CIA, he follows clues that lead him to the truth about his own life.  It's pretty intense.

Even when there are no car chases, bombs blowing up, or snipers, amnesia is intense.  We need our identity.  It defines us.    It tells us how we'll behave in any given situation.  

We need to know who we are.  

And yet, most of us struggle with knowing we are.  What we really want.  
And in difficult situations, like when we're on a serious quest to know God and become more like him, when we encounter trauma and drama and opposition, we tend to forget the little bit that we know.

That's why Pastor Mike's first point in last week's sermon, was that when we encounter those things, we need to remember who we are.  We need to remember whose we are.  

I've been reading Soulprint by Mark Batterson lately so I've already been thinking about exactly this question.  In this book, Batterson opens by saying, "There has never been and never will be anyone else like you.  But that isn't a testament to you.  It's a testament to the God who created you. . . . You owe it to yourself to be yourself.  But more important, you owe it to the One who designed you and destined you" (2).   

The problem, Batterson says, is that "most of us live our entire lives as strangers to ourselves. . . . Our true identities get buried beneath the mistakes we've made, the insecurities we've acquired, and the lies we've believed.  We're held captive by others' expectations.  We're uncomfortable in our own skin.  We we spend far too much emotional, relational , and spiritual energy trying to be who we are not.  Why? Because it's easier.  And we think it's safer" (3).

Several years ago, before I started school again, I lay in bed and felt like such a failure.  I wanted so badly to give up the desire to write.  I feared failure.  I wondered if I had anything worth saying.  I wondered why anyone would listen to me.  I wondered why anyone would even like me.  

You see, I had something at the core of me, the desire to tell stories about life and living and God, and I had covered it over with all kinds of fears.  And then I wondered if this core was even there.  

Batterson says that at some point we lose ourselves (3).  

I'm not saying that God's plan is for me to be a wildly successful writer.  That's not the point.  The point is that I need to live out of the "soulprint" God made when he designed me, formed me (see Psalm 139).

We tend to think about what we're doing and where we're doing it.  It's not that those don't matter on some level, but the most important thing is who we are becoming.  Batterson asserts that this has "everything to do with the character of Christ being formed within [us] until [we] look and act and feel and talk and dream and love just like Jesus" (12).  

Batterson says that if we really want to know who we are, we need to look to Jesus, who created us.  He quotes C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, who said, "Your real, new self . . . will not come as long as you are looking for it.  It will come when you are looking for Him" (117). 

In other words, "If you want to find yourself, you've got to look for God.  Ignoring God is like ignoring yourself" (117).  If we have the courage to stand before God, to focus on him, if we "have the courage to enter the unknown quadrant, [we'll] discover the dimensions of [our] God-given identity and God-ordained destiny that have eluded [us] for [our] entire lives" (118).  

We find ourselves in losing ourselves.  
If we are followers of Christ, then we belong to God.  We are his children.  He wants to live through us, breathe through us, move through us.  

It's no accident that I feel most like myself when I'm most focused on the "author and perfecter" of my faith (Hebrews 12:2).  It's no accident that my most wondrous life-defining adventures came when I was looking to God instead of creating a life plan.  

I'm not dismissing plans.  I'm just saying that we plan better when we listen to the one who made us, when we let him lead us and guide us.  When we let him show us who we are.  

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