I suppose I have thought about this topic since I was about eight years old. Prior to eight, like most boys and girls, I enjoyed the blissful status of being the center of the universe, shared by few (siblings mainly; few friends), under the tutelage of my practically perfect parents who loved me unconditionally (a blissful delusion, of course). As a young boy, I lived with a few assumptions…God is…mom and dad will always be there…food, clothing, and shelter, never in abundance, but always available, would be magically provided, and the New York Yankees would win The World Series (remember, this was the early 60’s). Well, life was not always bliss, but I assumed it was good. I had little self-consciousness, did not worry about self-esteem, was not that self-aware or self-assured…just a kid with some assumptions…based upon little else than simple trust. By and large, most of us start out that way.
Certainly, some people are more self-aware than others (mainly girls) but our basic trust in the goodness of life, mom, dad, teacher, pastors, politicians (ok, maybe I am pushing it some) is a part of our universal narrative. Somewhere along the line, most of these naïve understandings change…we grow up! Even before the nightmare and wonder of puberty, our trust, institutional and personal is at least challenged, leading to greater awareness of our vulnerabilities, less confidence in our earlier assumptions, leading us further to reevaluate every aspect of our lives…unconditional love, faith, hope, even life itself. Wow, thankfully we don’t face all of this at once. How overwhelming that would be. Perhaps not necessarily in dramatic style, but face it we will.
This facing of ourselves, our inner self, is essential to growing up. As Socrates aptly stated, “The unexamined life, (which is somewhat inevitable and unavoidable), is not worth living.” This examination, often done in light of new knowledge, education and experience, peer review, unfortunate circumstances, can be difficult at best for those of us raised in less than perfect (whatever that is) environments. Yet face and evaluate we must, as we slowly, sometimes painfully learn more about who we are in relation to others, and then as believers, in light of God’s revelation of himself in the Word of God, living (Jesus) and written.
In time, we become acutely aware that, rather than being the blissful center of the universe, we are flawed, perhaps broken, definitely sinners. Thus, worth less than we previously dreamed. If we are a “good” believer (I came to faith at 12; a good age I think), we might be less wounded than others. But since our core identity, whether we are liked or not, believe we are good or bad, worth more or less is established by around age 8. Consequently, though I had a wonderful and relatively young beginning with Christ, I never felt “good” or “acceptable” …but I tried really, really, really hard to please mom, dad, teacher, Pastor, God, Santa (hedging my bets) but to limited avail…as I always failed to measure up…” Never going to make it” and “not good enough” were refrains often ringing in my head.
I heard all the words about God’s love, his grace, mercy, kindness…but I couldn’t relate, as I also continuously heard, directly or indirectly, that I could never be what God expected…Holy, Holy, Holy!!! But, I didn’t give up. I embraced the false belief that I was a sinner saved by grace…eternally! I would never be what God wanted since I was so overwhelmingly damaged by sin, willful and inherited, but at least I was going to Heaven…Hallelujah! Ugh!
Well, I must say I believed this for a long time; but not anymore. You see, my childhood perception, though naive and immature, is closer to the truth. Not that I am the center of the universe, but I am the apple of God’s eye. As a child of God, I have worth, not based upon what I do (I want to do well, but not because I have to in order to please) but simply who I am…God’s child; his son, his heir, his creation and joy.
God so loved me he sent the perfect role model for me to follow (Jesus) and provides the greatest wisdom to guide me (Holy Spirit and Word of God). I am who God says I am…but the key is believing it, and that is what this little book, inspired by life, preached in Fontana, with input from both Dr. Barry and Dr. Ken Chant, is all about. You see, finding one’s true identity is not hard…that’s why for so many it is unbelievable.
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