I had an awkward experience at one point. Truth be told, I have had more than one and that is not necessarily confidential information to most people that know me. This one was pretty funny though. When I lived in Chicago, one thing I really loved was walking down the street and walking into a movie scene being filmed. Particularly, I enjoyed watching stunt scenes being filmed. On this particular day I was watching a stunt being filmed with an ambulance being hit by a truck for the TV drama ER. It was really interesting, and as a guy who tends to be easy going and always interested in learning about how to do new things, I began to strike up a conversation with one of the prop directors and he ended up showing me some interesting stuff that he had collected over the years and brought me on set where we stood with the rest of the show crew and watched the stunt being filmed. While I stood there I ended up talking to another gentleman who seemed like a really nice guy to me. I didn’t know him from Adam, and besides his name and what we talked about, I knew nothing about him. When the scene ended, I left the set and was immediately accosted by some young 20ish fan girls who started asking me questions about what this guy said to me, and what he was like, and could I introduce them. I was dumb founded, so I asked them, “who is that guy?” They told me that he was one of the main actors of this TV show called ER (which I had obviously never seen) and they would kill to talk with him. At that, I quickly exited the scene.
The scene struck me as funny. Not simply because it showed my ignorance of popular TV dramas, but because of something else. I knew this guy as a nice guy, excited about film, interesting to talk to, but I had missed so much about him. Likewise, these girls knew him as an actor, probably a philandering doctor character and a heart throb, but he wasn’t any of those things. We knew the same guy but in radically different ways, and the truth be told, neither I nor they knew who this guy was at all. We rarely really know who someone is. To be honest, if we were asked the question “who are you?” we would all probably fail to answer that question. We might say, “I am a father/mother, son/daughter, a teacher/farmer/doctor/ect, I am a student, I am a whatever else…” All these things are things we do not who we are. We are not the sum of our responsibilities. We are not the sum of our physical characteristics. We are not even who we are related to. So what is the answer to the question, “who are you?”
This question of our truest identity, the identity we have when all the identities the world and life give us are stripped away is a subject that Paul reminds us of. Identity is what is left when everything that life has given us is stripped away. We all wear hats, play parts, and put on faces for everyone to see. Most of the time we try and add glit and glamour to these, and we try to make our lives look happy and perfect on the outside so that no one knows that on the inside we suffer daily from an intense identity crisis. We can try and identify ourselves by the things we do and we feel the ache of the emptiness of these things. We can try and look like we have everything together on the outside and just live with a miserable sense that we are aliens living in our own bodies. We can, but thankfully there is another option. Paul speaks of this in Romans 8.
14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. -Romans 8:14–17
Who are you? If you have come to faith in Christ, then you are the child of God. If everything in your life was taken away, all the jobs, hats, responsibilities, characteristics, passions were stripped away, what is left is still your identity that you are a child of God. This is left for the simple reason that it can never be stripped away. As Jesus says, the identity we have as children of God is irremovable from who we are (John 10:28-30). When everything else is gone, we are still children of God. When we recognize who we are, we find security and reassurance that we can be the best at whatever we do, or we can fall on our faces and try to put the pieces together, either way we will never stop being children of God. Who are you? Remember that you are something greater than the sum of your struggles and joys. You are something that the world and life can never take away from you. You are a child of God. It’s a simple truth but as is often the case, this simple truth can change our life.