Who Am I?

I had the incredible privilege of going back home to Houston last week to visit my family. While home, I attended the church that I grew up in (www.second.org) where one of my favorite pastors delivered a convicting (and much-needed) sermon entitled, “Who Am I?” Honestly, I don’t think many of us are strangers to this question – we all find ourselves on a sort of epic Homeric quest for greater self-awareness at some point in our lives. When I moved to Nashville 5 years ago to attend Belmont, I was excited about the prospect of really “finding myself” in college. Much to my dismay, I just found more questions. It seemed like finding my identity was like trying to get a handle on an unruly, hyperactive child – the second I thought I had a hold on it, it would slip through my fingers. I was tired and frustrated by the chase.

I think we’re all drawn to those people who truly know who they are. There is something really attractive about transparent and authentic people who are comfortable in their own skin, who look humbly upon their strengths, who find grace in their shortcomings. I’m fortunate to have some of those people in my life and, after quiet observation (and a little envy), I’ve discovered that, unlike me, they spend little time dwelling on who they are. Instead, they meditate more on who God is and they define themselves by who God says they are.

It’s little wonder that I have difficulty with my identity – I’m defining myself by the wrong things.

I am what I do.

I am what I have.

I am how I look.

I am who others say I am.

I am who I say I am.

The problem with defining myself by these things is that they are deceptive, fickle, and ever changing. If my identity rests solely in what I do, then when things don’t work out, I am a failure. If I define myself by who others say I am, then when I fail to meet expectations, I am a disappointment. These definitions lead to slavery and bondage.

I am a slave to performance.

I am a slave to my possessions.

I am a slave to vanity.

I am a slave to acceptance and people-pleasing.

I am a slave to my own erratic feelings.

Fortunately, there is a way to escape the bondage. Freedom comes from knowing that my identity is less about discovering who I am and more about knowing whose I am (please forgive the trite cliché). Brent Curtis and Brett Eldridge put it beautifully in The Sacred Romance:

Who am I, really? The answer to that question is found in the answer to another: What is God’s heart toward me, or, how do I affect Him? If God is the Pursuer, the Ageless Romancer, the Lover, then there has to be a Beloved, one who is the Pursued. This is our role in the story.

I am His beloved and this is all the identity I will ever need. I don’t have to be a slave to performance or opinion and I no longer have to chase after some elusive identity– I must simply rest in the freedom of His unending love, grace, and pursuit of me.

Musings on Advent and Anticipation

O Come O Come Emmanuel

And ransom captive Israel

That mourns in lonely exile here

Until the Son of God appears

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel.

My first Christmas in college, I discovered the season of Advent. I grew up in a Baptist church and Baptists typically don’t follow a liturgical calendar. So when my faith started to take a more ecumenical turn, I decided to explore and follow the Church’s traditional calendar. As a side note, I highly encourage this for any Christian looking for a deeper connection to the universal church. Anyway, it was during this time that I developed a love for Advent. Advent is a season of anticipation and I’m reminded of some of the stories in Scripture that speak to this feeling of longing and anticipation of the fulfillment of God’s promises. I think of Noah and his family on the Ark waiting for the rain to subside. I think of the Israelites stuck in slavery and longing to be set free and then wandering the desert clinging to the hope of the Promised Land. I think of the Jews eagerly anticipating the Messiah, the Savior – Immanuel, “God with us.” I can’t tell you how much I identify with this sense of longing and anticipation. I’ve been a dreamer from the beginning. I was the kid that was perfectly content lying in the grass for hours, gazing at the clouds and daydreaming. It got me through the most arduous and painful of times; longing for what was to come and anticipating the promise of greater things has always given me hope. And this Advent season, the anticipation has never been more palpable.

I found out this past week that the man with whom I invested a year and a half in and loved is married. Our relationship ended well over a year ago and there is no doubt that I have moved on. The last few months of our relationship were tumultuous at best – full of regrets and pain. Looking back I knew that the relationship had to end. I fully believe that God had- and has- better things in store for both of us. I also know that God used that painful season to mold me into the person He wanted me to be. But this past week when I heard about Mr. Ex’s marriage, all the things that I worked so hard to get past came flooding back – anger, resentment, rejection, hurt. It’s not that I ever wanted him back – I didn’t and don’t – and it’s not that I don’t believe that God has someone incredible waiting for me – I believe that wholeheartedly. But I feel a bit like those Israelites wandering the desert in search of the Promised Land. They knew that it was there and that God had promised it to them but they had trouble believing it. That terrible waiting – the wandering! I was selfishly angry this week because Mr. Ex has found his Promised Land and I began whining to God, “Where’s mine?!” He answered me with the best part of the Advent story … Jesus. The Advent season doesn’t end with anticipation – it ends with fulfillment. Immanuel has come and God’s promise has been fulfilled. He stopped the rain; He delivered the Israelites from slavery and into the Promised Land; and He sent that baby in the manger – the Messiah. I’m sure He will send me my love in due time (and I am eagerly awaiting that!) but He has already brought me to the Promised Land. He has given me Himself and that is all I will ever need.

So this Advent season I am filled with joy and hope because God has kept His promises. He has redeemed me and reconciled me to Himself. I’m not a jilted bride standing alone at the altar. My Lover has chosen me – He has taken me in His arms and called me His.

The hopes and fears of all the years

Are met in Thee tonight.