Who I Am

Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him, but I know him because I am from him and he sent me.” John 7:28-29

From the earliest age I can remember, the repetitive question asked by grown-ups was, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” This was clearly a really important thing to decide because we painted pictures of the answer to it in school, wrote essays about it, and kept trying to answer it through junior high, high school and college. Who am I? What do I want to be? Who do I want to be? And, the most insidious version of the question to be answered: How do you want to be remembered!?

My answers started with “cow girl” after seeing Coal Miner’s Daughter (about Loretta Lynn), then gravitated to “the first female Pelé” and I would always select the number 10 for my soccer jersey just to help reinforce for others who I was aiming to emulate. Then, Martin Luther King, Jr. awoke in me a passion for a life well spent, followed similarly by the movie Bravehart which made me want to go fight for Scotland then and there. Not only is it interesting that not once did I say, “I want to be that lady waiting at the bus stop”, but the drive was to be a hero…the hero.

More subtly, the question always lingers at the fringes of everything from the car I might desire or the way I want to decorate our home, choose my clothes or present our life choices to others. I want each of these aspects of my life to answer for onlookers who I am.

God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation. Ex.3:14-15

But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Mark 14:61-62

The number of pop songs and county songs with choruses touting “Look at me now” or “how do you like me now” or “I’m going to be somebody some day!” only reinforce this obsession to be known, to be a hero, to be the hero. And more than just the obnoxious flavor of self-absorption, it is a deeply divisive way to enter into community. It makes me anxious at a party or a business meeting or even at church when my name is not highlighted, when my opinion is not sought, when my contribution is not appreciated or pursued.

Now this was John’s testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Christ.” They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’ ” John 1:19-23

There is only one I AM whom knowing brings life and life abundantly. And like John the Baptist, I’ve got to start to believe that I am not that One. I am not the hero of the story, of my community, of my church or of my family. That role is not only taken, but perfectly and powerfully filled by Jesus. And I begin to wonder, what if instead of my home or work or contribution showing people who I am, they could become places where onlookers more clearly see I AM? When I am dead and gone, whose work, name and very being will endure, change lives and redeem the world? Who do those around me most need to see, hear, recognize, honor, appreciate and know?

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Matt. 16:15

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