– (i)dentity

No doubt I have caused some confusion. The main heading for this section is “About Me” and yet, to some, I have said nary a word about myself. Some have perused the other little blurbs and have said, “Okay, okay, I get it. You believe in God.” And you are done. Rather you want to know me as a father or husband or minister maybe. All these things are true and all go in this section.

Still the apologist in me can’t help but pause a second and give further defense on why I have ordered this section so deliberately and why I continue to emphasize the importance of starting with my metanarrative.

It comes back to one of those pesky questions all worldviews seek to answer. Specifically “What is wrong?” It is an astounding thing to realize that every worldview recognizes that something is amiss and we need to come to terms with it. No doubt, you (being a faithful reader and having read this) know that my answer for this is sin. Before I spoke of sin as an act of rebellion against God. Sin can also be viewed in another way. Sin is tied up in our identity or lack thereof.

What I mean is this: sin is us trying to form and maintain an identity apart from God. While being right with God is trying to have and maintain an identity that has God at its center. I maintain that we all have identities that are wrapped around the center of that which we most esteem. If your identity is wrapped up in something other than God then it is an identity that will result in great crises of identity in your life.

For example, let us say you prize above all others your spouse. Your spouse is your god in this respect. He/She holds the place of highest esteem and in your view of him/her you seek to round out your identity. Of course, your spouse is going to fail you one day. She is, after all, only human. Even worse, you will fail your spouse one day. And what will happen will result in the very fiber of your identity being uprooted and you fall into a cataclysmic spiral. Maybe you are so full of self-esteem that you will blame everyone else. You will keep a black book of names with whom did you wrong and you need a vengeance against. Or you will become depressed and addicted to drugs or alcohol. Maybe you will try suicide.

Whether we realize this or not – we all do it. Wrap our identity around that which we value most. It does not have to be a spouse. It can be our children or our parents, our job, money, possessions, stations in life, political parties, nationalities, ethnic background, schooling, religion and a multitude of other various things.

This is why I started the “About Me” section the way that I did. My highest value is God. It is not myself, my wife, my children nor my church. I was not created for any of these things. I was, however, created for my Creator and within him I find my identity.

But just like other things we highly esteem, we can also fail God. How then can I rationalize such a focus as being the right answer? It comes back to sin. Sin really is good news. It is good news because the reality that I am a sinner means my problems in life can be fixed. Because sin is the issue there is a solution. It is not as if I am engineered by nature this way and have no choice. It is not as if there is no point to life and therefore no hope. The hope is in God and that he fixes a world marred by sin and heals sinners like me. Then I can learn to forgive, for example, which is an immeasurable hard task to do. So when I fail him, as his child, he does not turn and say to me “Oh, that’s it. The bottom has fallen out. You have shown you are not worthy of my favor. You have shown that you do not merit having me as part of your identity.” On the contrary he says, “Dear, sweet child, you will never be able to do it on your own. That is why I am God and you are not. But do not fret. My grace and mercy are mightier than any attempt of yours to seek an identity elsewhere. I will never abandon you. I keep you. You are mine. You are safe. Do not fret.”

There is the difference. Only with God, as revealed in the Bible, does grace and mercy reign supreme for his children. Our expectation is one of being changed by love not by a task master. Of course, we Christians are constantly messing up and need reminding of where our identity is found. It is not found in a denomination or an organization. It is not found in doing ministry or feeding the poor. It is not found in attending service or participating in the choir. These things have their place, but if we put them as that which we value most then idolatry has occurred. But God is constantly reorienting us back to the center of our identity – Him.

So who am I?

I am first a Jesus follower. To me it means the same as Christian, but to many the two mean something different entirely. I use Jesus follower because it defines for me who a Christian really is. I have a relationship with Jesus. He is my center, my focus, my value, my esteem, and he is the source of my identity. Do I look like him? Those who know me best know that I do not. But he is ever whittling away at me helping me be more and more of a reflection of him. When this whittling happens I am exuberant and joyful. It is precious indeed for me to hear my Father draw me close and hold me tight. I have travelled alone, in the company of men and have found rest at the foot of the cross. I never shall tarry outside of peace again.

I am a husband. If there is anything mystical about my life it is the union of marriage. There is a wonder in it. The wonder exhibits itself in the uniqueness of the various distinct traits it manifests. For example, it is a wonder to me that today I love my wife more than yesterday or yesteryear. What is more is I know without a doubt I will love her even more tomorrow and the year after that even more so. To say such a thing recognizes that there is no ceiling in love. It is infinite in nature and I am experiencing it now this way. Amazing. Also, it is a wonder to me to know the steadfastness of my wife in our relationship. Today more friends than yesterday or yesteryear. More entrenched in each other, having a deeper knowledge of the solid foundation upon which our marriage is built. It is sweet to know our marriage is not dependant upon my performance or hers. I love the fact that my person, body and soul, with my distinctive qualities both good and bad, have a secure resting place of love and admonition for ever and ever.

The Mysticism of my marriage and why it puts me in awe is because of God’s point for even creating this union in the first place. It points to Jesus’ relationship with his bride, the church. His example teaches me as a husband one of sacrifice and humility, not demand and totalitarianism. He leads by example. He picked up his cross and now calls me to do the same. I am to do this first with my wife. I am to die for her when God calls me to die. I am to sacrifice myself for her wellbeing and not keep count. The tally is like this: I Love You = infinite; everything else = 0.

I am a father. Never prior to having children did I realize what a joy I would have with them, how much love I could have for them and how much about life they could teach me. One of my responsibilities as a daddy is to protect the innocence of my children. I have come to realize that, in part, wisdom is the ability to live in the joy of innocence while having the knowledge of maturity. I seek this balance in my life.

As a parent I have many prayers for my children. Only a parent could guess at the half of them. Prayerfully, God will grant many of them. But one I will share is this and I share it because I think it is a secret in parenting that we miss. It is the prayer of having a heart. Malachi 4:6 “And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers,” You see I want my children to have a heart for me and their mother. One that does not end with puberty or adulthood, but one that tarries with them all their days on earth. The secret is that it first means God must turn my heart towards them. It is about the deepest changes in me. The implications of this desire are numerous and the applications in this are too personal to share in a setting like this, but you get the point. As a parent I hope to have a heart for my children in all possible ways and that in turn they will have a heart for me – and that it will lead to them having a heart for their heavenly Father.

On a side note to fathers, I hope you get the importance of your role with your children. It is a role that has become fair game in our society as being needless and cumbersome. How many movies and televisions shows use the father as the bumbling idiot? But our role is to set an example so that when your child’s heavenly Father is revealed to him/her, your child is not repulsed by the idea of God being a daddy. It is our litmus test Daddies!

I am a pastor. My father is a pastor. This was a calling that I never wanted. It is also a calling that was undeniable in my life. I will never forget the day God called me into the ministry and the aftermath for several years due to that calling. I told God “no.” It is a high calling. I do not believe there is a higher calling in life. Kings and Presidents do not receive a higher calling or a harder road than a shepherd of God’s flock. We alone stand before God with an accounting that must be given different than all others. It is a position I do not envy.

Still, I gladly accept it now. I see God’s mighty hand at work in my life through this calling – more than that to those with whom I minister. But as a pastor I take very serious the role of the shepherd. So much is at stake and I do not want to be lazy and apathetic. A love for God’s flock is ever impressing upon my soul. One that becomes more and more a portion of how to do and what to think and what priorities I have.  It is an urgent calling and it places me on the frontlines. Every day I get the motif of being battle ready at all times. I want to lead others well, feed others well, protect others well and then finish well myself.

I am other things. I certainly can get wrapped up in other things that fill my life with joy and passion. For example, I am a son and brother and an uncle. All good things. I love the arts. In fact I like to quip that I am an avid reader, failing philosopher and starving artist. All of these too true. However, none of these other things encompass me like those given emphasis. So, now you have as brief of an introduction to me as I can fathom for a blog. LOL. It is what it is! Enjoy.

%d bloggers like this: