Bad Disciple, Part IV

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, and certainly was at the root of a great many of mine. People talk all the time about having identity crises, and I think they’re absolutely right—a lack of identity can be a crisis. It’s a little hard to lead your life—any life—if you don’t know who you are.

How can a person really answer that question?

Who are you?

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?

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?

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.

Is that who I am? My name is Tom, and I’m a DoD contractor, brother four times, and husband of Jennifer, father of David and John.

Something is lost here.

Who am I?

What is my primary identity?

Is it any of those things I just mentioned? If it is, I think I’m 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.

Why?

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 DoD contractor, 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 many of my…motivations for my past transgressions clearer. Not excuse them, but it’s something now to understand why.

I was trying to figure out not just who I was, but what the hell I was supposed to do with myself. Which led me to things that were…perhaps less than healthy, physically and spiritually. Because 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.

Even now, when I’m tempted, or 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 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.

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 the answer is “I don’t know,” then how do you find yourself?

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Reaching for Daddy

My nine month old son taught me something about God not long ago.

John is a funny little guy. He’s been crawling a little while now, and has also recently started walking with the assistance of a walker that plays an assortment of old-school kid songs.

He gets so excited he almost runs, too, and seems to be developing the fierce independence of his older brother, who only asks for help as a last resort, and abhors reading instructions. John will totter around pushing his walker, or a chair, or anything he can get his hands on that will allow him to move.

I had my moment of clarity the other day when I noticed that when we put him to bed he usually just flops down on his side and sleeps whatever amount of time his little body dictates. Then he cries, and we make our way in to pick him up.

It’s a pretty easy routine.

I haven’t seen what he does when my wife goes to get him, but when I enter his room to pick him up from his crib, he’s usually standing and clutching the bars like a prisoner, while crying out as loud as he can for us to come and rescue him.

When he sees me, he usually reaches up with his little shaking hands, like he’s saying “Daddy, Help me!”

I think that’s what I’m usually like with God; I insist on doing things on my own way, and in a sense I push things around because I, too, am a big boy, and I know how to do things on my own.

It’s better than having someone carry you all over the place.

And then there comes a point where I forget that someone used to carry me, and carries me still. What my son taught me is that I don’t reach out my hands for Daddy to pick me up often enough.

When I lift John out of his crib, he usually shuts it off right away. Why not? Daddy has picked him up, and things are pretty good.

He’s safe, and knows he will be comforted in one way or another.

He trusts—in as much of a way as a baby can—that because Daddy has him in his arms, that things will be OK.

Why is it that it’s so hard for me to reach for those arms to pick me up, and comfort me?

My 6 year old even gets it better than I do. He’s got that independent streak of my wife’s, too, but when he gets to that place where the hurt is bad enough, or he is afraid, or needs wisdom about something, he asks for help.

What makes me think I have everything figured out?

I love my kids so much…