I heard a story that was given in a sermon about a little girl who was waiting for her newborn brother to be born. She was very excited. Being almost five, she knew she would have tremendous responsibilities as an older sister. Finally the day had come and the girl’s mother gave birth to a healthy, little boy. Excited, the little girl could hardly wait for brother to return home. When the family returned, the parents introduced the little girl to her new brother. She then asked a very odd question, “Would you mind if I spent some time with my brother alone?” The parents were not sure what to make of this but thought about it for a moment and allowed the little girl’s request. The parents had placed a baby monitor in the baby’s room so they could hear if they would be needed at any moment. When the baby was placed in the crib, the little girl waited for her parents to leave the room. As they did, the little girl shut the door. The parents ran to the monitor and listened on the other end. Within a few moments, they could hear the little girl’s footsteps getting louder as she seemed to get closer to the crib. They then heard the crib squeak a little as the little girl pressed her body against the mattress. The whole time up until this point, the little girl had said nothing. At once, the little girl spoke to her newborn brother. “Can you tell me about God? I’ve almost forgotten.”
As I have thought more about what it means to know oneself, I read this story and relate to the five-year-old child who so desperately wants to remember God. I think when we are born we are imprinted with a memory of God that is lost early on in life because we have not held on to it strong enough. I think perhaps the reason we struggle to understand ourselves is because we really don’t know God, as we should. If we really knew the Creator then I think it would be a lot easier to live as His creation. Thus or lives are given to the work of learning who God is and learning who we are in Him. The journey of knowing oneself is tedious. It requires more than just reading the Bible for the sake of knowledge. It requires more than just praying for personal needs. It requires more than just going to Church and networking with other people. It requires more than dumping 20.00 in the offering plate when it goes by. It requires a complete surrender of personal life. It requires a true relational framework – knowing God – loving God.
Scot McKnight came to Biblical Theological Seminary this past Friday and gave, what I consider, one of the most compelling talks on a relational framework in our approach of knowing God and, in a very real way, knowing ourselves. Scot said, “A relational framework separates God and the Bible. The Bible is paper and God is a person.” I understand that. When I get a letter from someone I know well, the way in which I read the letter is completely different than a letter I receive from someone I don’t know. I will read them both but one will resonate with me in a greater way because I have a relationship with that person. It really makes sense.
I had someone write me after I had posted my first few thoughts on identity and asked, “Where do you go from here?” That is a hard question to ask. I don’t fully know where I ought to go and how I should move forward. What I do know is that one’s journey in knowing one’s identity is very important. If we do not know who we are, we are unable to truly be who we are made to be. We cannot pretend to be other people forever. There has to come a point in our lives when our “playtime” is over and we begin to live out the life God intended us to live. I am on that journey now.
Here are some ideas and thought I have in getting closer to knowing our identity:
Know God. When we have a strong relationship with God, and He knows us, we in turn know ourselves better.
Know your story. I think it is important to know one’s story. Without our story, we have no foundation or basis to grow and move on. It is therefore important to run through the events of our lives that are significant – write them down – and share it with people often. Try to maintain your story within a time frame of 10 minutes. One of the famous lines from the movie Dragnet is when Friday said, “Just the facts madam, just the facts.” I think we would be wise to state just the facts as well.
Know love. I think that is probably one of the most difficult aspects I am currently dealing with in my walk with God. I know that I am loved. I also believe that I love myself. There are times though where I have allowed sin to hold me back from receiving God’s love and His grace. I feel I am not worthy of it and put myself down. For you and I, maybe we need have a trusted friend say over and over again, “Friend, you are truly loved by God.” Maybe after the ninth or tenth time, we will actually hear the truth and it will set us free.
Finally, know hope: One of the most important things that help us along the way is hope. Since hope is the evidence of things that aren’t seen, we hope in God that, “He who began a good work in us will bring it to completion.” As God continues to work on you and I, we have hope that He will do what He says He will do. It thus gives us reason to stand and walk boldly – in confidence. We serve a mighty God who does not forget about us but always keeps us at the forefront of His mind. That is where our hope lies.
Know your story
In all of these things we can know so much more. We can know joy, pain, sorrow, and many other emotions, which we could list. Through all of this, we know ourselves. We know our identity – both who we are and who we are in Christ. God truly has a great plan for our lives. It is that we would know Him, that He would know us, and that we would know ourselves. This is the journey of identity.