There’s a scene in the movie “The Breakfast Club” where the character Brian, played by Anthony Michael Hall, is trying to begin writing the paper assigned by the study hall “teacher.” He’s thinking, and talking to himself a little, and ultimately ends up sticking his pencil eraser up his nose while asking himself “who are you?”
Who are you?
I think this question is at the root of a great many problems. People talk all the time about having identity crises, and I think they’re absolutely right—it can be a crisis. It’s a little hard to lead your life—any life—if you don’t know who you are.
And here’s another question. What if you can’t be the person you think you are? What if something is holding you back, whether it be work, or inhibition, or simply life in all its complicated madness?
How can a person really answer that question? You can give your name, but are the two or three words on your driver’s license who you really are? Aren’t they just words?
Who are we, then? And who do we think we are?
I think much of our self-identification stems from our natural affinities, our giftings, or our jobs. I’m a carpenter, or a cook, or a plumber, or a writer, or a singer. And I think one of the most commonly asked questions in social situations where people don’t know each other well is “What do you do?” in reference to a person’s job.
Is that how we’re defined? By how we make money? Where we spend 8+ hours of our time every day?
I’m a fry cook. Or a lawyer. Or a concierge. Or a pastor. Or stay-at-home mom. Or brother, sister, husband, or wife.
How can that be all there is?
Is that who I am? My name is Tom, and I’m an Engineering Technician EG2B, brother four times, and husband of Jennifer, father of David and John.
Something is lost here.
Who am I?
What is my primary identity? Do I even have one?
Is it any of those things I just mentioned? If it is, I think we’re missing a very big step.
I know that when I was at my absolute worst, before I knew Jesus, it would be a very fair statement to say I had no idea at all who I was. I went through several jobs trying to find one that suited me. I had several relationships where I barely scratched the surface of who the people were I was involved with, and I learned to medicate myself heavily with both food and alcohol because it made it so I didn’t have to think about who I was, or who I wasn’t.
But after the night I met Jesus, things became new, and different, and a little strange. I thought about Him (or tried to) before I did most things, or made big decisions.
Because, when I invited Him to be the Lord of my life, I became new. Born again, as they say.
I was a son, His son. Child of a father that loved me above all else. Child of a father that died a horrible death, for me.
My identity became Him.
I, Tom, the Engineering Technician EG2B, am a child of God.
That’s my identity, that’s who I am. That’s who I became when Jesus entered my life and my heart.
I think about that now, and it makes a lot of my past transgressions clearer, or at least what I felt to be the reasons behind them. It’s a lot easier to sin when you have no center, no compass. When all you have to define your reason for being is a vague sense of moral relativism.
And lately, the struggle has been one of time. I know who I am, and I think I know who I’m supposed to be.
But there’s no time.
There’s work, and church, and kids, and not much time for anything else. Right? Life gets so busy.
And even now, when I sin (which happens all too frequently), the reason for it is that for the moment, I’ve forgotten who I am, and who my father is. My father on earth is Melvin L Wilkins. But my father in an eternal sense is Jesus, and none other.
But sometimes I still forget. The difference now, though, is that I’m aware of the opportunity to repent. To turn away from my sin and toward Jesus. I just have to make time to do it. I have to dig deeply into the time I do have, and I have to set my priorities.
If I want to be the example to my kids and my wife I know I should be, I have to take care of some things before I can take care of them. I need to put on my armor every day. And study, and pray, and seek wisdom.
Only then can I be the father, and husband, and friend that God has in mind for me to be.
Because like it or not, my kids will look to me to see who they should be. And I don’t want them to see simply Tom.
I was born in San Diego, but in a very real sense, I was also born on a dock over a small, very calm tributary of the Colorado River. Or reborn, I suppose.
That’s actually at the root of one of my most profound experiences during my time with CVCF Healing Prayer, which I have never mentioned to anyone save the three others who were there, not even my wife until now.
I remember struggling to hear from Jesus during my prayer session, and finally, literally, asking Jesus if it would have been better had I not even been born. I was, after all, an accident. After that, I closed my eyes and fell on my face, weeping.
And what I saw was the river where I’d met Jesus that first time. I saw the man that had been myself kneeling, crying in the same way I was crying during the prayer session.
Then I felt a comforting hand on the back of my neck. A strong hand—the hand of a carpenter. And heard a voice speak into my heart “this is where you were born. And I meant you to be here.”
So here I am today.
Who am I? My name is Tom, and I am a child of my Abba.
That’s my primary identity. Before husband, or father, or brother, or anything else.
And I submit that if you’re a follower of Jesus and you don’t yet know what your primary identity is, you will never reach the fulfillment in Christ that can be reached once you do.
So ask yourself once more, who am I? And if you feel lost, or set apart from who you feel you are supposed to be, what will you do to find that person again?