Suggested Texts: John 5.18-24; 12.27-50
The Christian life is identity driven. Before we realize the purpose of our life, we must come to realize our essential, our authentic “being” in our life. If we invent a purpose in hopes of receiving from it our identity, our authentic being, we will be frustrated forevermore. It is not an either/or but a both/and. Identity and purpose both belong and work together. But one does precede the other.
I hear people say, “I was born for this,” when referring to some project or vocation. What are they saying, whether they realize it or not? They are saying, “This action, this vocation, is the authentic expression of my identity. It is who I am, not just what I am doing!”
We are talented people. We can do many things, and do them really well. But, just because we can does not me we should. What is ours to do is what expresses that ever mysterious person we are coming to to know in Christ, as the living fruit of His saving love. The is a difference between what we believe we have to do, and what we simply do because of what we are.
All of life’s events and circumstances and relationships are the environment in which this illumination regarding our identity occurs. The “thread,” the “theme” of our life, the heartbeat deeper than the actions begins to be heard with our inner ear. The pulse of life that issues forth in authentic action.
There are hints. There are clues. There are echoes. Are we listening and looking for them? Are we receiving them as what they truly are – the revelation of God regarding Himself? Are we listening for who Christ Jesus is in our midst and beginning to hear who we are in Him in our “human being”? It is true to say that the “search for self” or the project of “finding myself” is a fool’s errand. The search for Christ Jesus is the only authentic search. Mysteriously, we find the fulfillment of our search for self in our search for Christ. For, in His true self we find and receive our own.
It is true to say that only in our complete identification with the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus, with the embrace of His identity, can we receive, and live out our own identity. And, of course, this must be true, for authentic identity is essentially the manifestation of the glory of the Father, in the Son, by the Holy Spirit. Identity is the gift of God to us. I know who “I” am is because of who He is and who we are in relationship through Him.
We question is not, first and foremost, “What is the right thing to do.” The question is, “Who am I?” The right doing will come just as surely as the fig tree will bear figs.
“You may have noticed that the books you really love are bound together by a secret thread. You know very well what is the common quality that makes you love them, though you cannot put it into words: but most of your friends do not see it at all, and often wonder why, liking this, you should also like that. Again, you have stood before some landscape, which seems to embody what you have been looking for all your life; and then turned to the friend at your side who appears to be seeing what you saw — but at the first words a gulf yawns between you, and you realise that this landscape means something totally different to him, that he is pursuing an alien vision and cares nothing for the ineffable suggestion by which you are transported. Even in your hobbies, has there not always been some secret attraction which the others are curiously ignorant of — something, not to be identified with, but always on the verge of breaking through, the smell of cut wood in the workshop or the clap-clap of water against the boat’s side? Are not all lifelong friendships born at the moment when at last you meet another human being who has some inkling (but faint and uncertain even in the best) of that something which you were born desiring, and which, beneath the flux of other desires and in all the momentary silences between the louder passions, night and day, year by year, from childhood to old age, you are looking for, watching for, listening for? You have never had it. All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it — tantalising glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest — if there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself — you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say “Here at last is the thing I was made for”. We cannot tell each other about it. It is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want, the thing we desired before we met our wives or made our friends or chose our work, and which we shall still desire on our deathbeds, when the mind no longer knows wife or friend or work. While we are, this is. If we lose this, we lose all.” The Problem of Pain, by C.S. Lewis