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.
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?