(Originally posted 1/22/2022)
You know the question – we all do. It’s the answer that we fear, that stymies us, that we avoid like a stalker on our social media accounts.
Jesus’ disciples were challenged by ”the” question, up close and personal, but skipped blindly past it, believing they belonged to an exclusive “Jesus Club” that exempted them from such a challenge. They would post selfies with Jesus and then boast to their friends on Facebook.
They couldn’t wait for their ten-year high school reunion so they could counter the negative comments in their senior yearbook, “most likely to end up in jail” or “most likely to become a TV repairman living in their mother’s basement.” I think that one was about James and John because their mother boldly approached Jesus to ask him to get them both out of her hair! (Mark 10:35-45)
I imagine Jesus had to constantly pose that all-important question to them just to pull them back to reality, “Come on, guys, you don’t get a pass on this. AGAIN…”Who Am I?”
It wasn’t just the disciples; every one of us has been challenged by that question that words cannot answer, but rather, by the very act of our day-to-day living. Still, we rarely get it right.
Recall that Jesus’ brothers (yes, he had some, and sisters too, get over it) often mocked and ridiculed him in front of others, “For even his own brothers did not believe in him.” (John 7:2-9) A bit of sibling rivalry? Possibly. Not surprising as he was the only one who never disobeyed or sinned. His brothers had to be jealous of that and how his admiring followers flocked to him wherever he went.
John Dominic Crossan gives us some fascinating insight into the thinking of the day,“…if you asked anyone in the Mediterranean world at the time of Jesus, “Who’s the Son of God, the Lord, the redeemer, the savior of the world?” everyone would’ve known immediately who you were talking about, and it sure wouldn’t have been Jesus.—it would have been Caesar Augustus.”
That’s right, and Caesar loved it. He was a master of propaganda and deceit and knew how to manipulate everyone, from the powerful to the lowliest pheasant. Because he was so skilled at deception, everyone loved him even though he was a dictator. Go figure.
Perhaps this understanding of the belief that Caesar Augustus was the Son of God made him a hard act for Jesus to follow. Who knows. Could Jesus have questioned his life’s purpose? There may be a hint of that here – Luke 22:42. We are so surprised when we read that he asked God to take away the suffering he knew he was about to experience.
And then, (I don’t pretend to know – I wasn’t there. So, don’t send me hate mail!) I’m imagining, almost as an AHA moment, after God revealed to him that, yes, this was still his purpose, people would soon discover who Jesus was.
We humans can get lost when we go down that rabbit hole of self-doubt. So many of us know the feeling of being “less than”. Right? It’s easy for us to buy into the lies that we are not good enough.
Michael Beckwith tells us, “There is a life occurrence or a sequence of events unique to each of us that breaks through our self-imposed limitations, our egoic self-will, beckoning the Authentic Self to come forward and announce itself to us….the wisdom in this grace knows exactly what conditions will cause us to exclaim, ‘Enough is enough. I give my consent to my next level of growth.’”
Stay with me here.
The title of my blog, “Passion, Purpose, and Poopyheads”, defines the struggles I have had trying to accept that I was gifted with passion and purpose –as we all are. The problem has always been the “poopyheads” that keep setting up roadblocks for me to stumble over.
What would our lives look like if we dared to pose the “who do you say I am” question back to God? Deep down, we yearn for the answer. It’s our greatest spiritual longing. “Who am I to you, Lord?” But his response can be drowned out by the voices of those who run roughshod over our hearts and muddy the pure waters of God’s immovable, unchangeable, immense love for us. He calls each of us his beloved, but we don’t believe it. Instead, we believe the lies of those who are just as broken as we are.
Picture this: you go to a new doctor and are ushered into his nurse’s station as she takes all your vital signs and then shoves you up on a scale. All the while, you cannot help but notice that she is obviously struggling with her health issues. Then, you sit for an eternity waiting for the doctor, who finally walks into the room, reeking of cigarette smoke and finishing up the last bite of a McDonald’s Big Mac – his lunch (gag me!). Will you trust anything he advises to keep you healthy when he clearly doesn’t follow that advice himself? Do you stay or run like hell? You decide for yourself, but I’m already in my car!
Now, let’s put that scenario into the context of this discussion of just who it is that Jesus says we are. Even though he repeatedly tells us the same thing, we choose to give full authority to the thoughts of others who are – well – screwed up. Mostly. Like us. Who are you going to trust?
But, alas, it’s 2022—a new year.
I’m going to speak for myself now. You’re welcome to tag along….
Let’s call it:
An ode to new beginnings that tell us endings are never final if you’re still breathing.
Last year was, hands down, one of my worst years ever, with Covid relegated to last place on my list of profoundly crappy moments. After losing my husband, I had to face the truth of a heart condition that I chose to ignore for years until it reared up and took a huge bite out of my…denial.
Both these profound life events were instrumental in creating my new reality: at my age, I am starting over in an uncertain and unfamiliar place. God has promised never to leave us, but he does not lay out our lives like a scavenger hunt. Unfortunately, that’s what we expect from him, and then we get tripped up every time we encounter any obstacles.
For most of my seventy-three years, I have not allowed the Creator of my destiny to guide me. Others would constantly butt in unsolicited and make huge messes in my life, like the bratty kid who knocks down all your Legos, so you have to start over!
So now, if I live as though I really believe that God is the only one I need to listen to and trust, then I will have no one else to blame if I fail to follow the path he has laid out for me. And there it is…TADA! It’s less scary and less demanding to keep doing what I have always done than expose myself to what God may be asking of me.
If I answer that question, “Who do you say I am?” honestly, that would naturally require me to change and release my grip on mediocrity because God doesn’t do mediocre. And how do I deal with that when I have been led to believe all my life that it’s the best I have to offer in a world that couldn’t care less? So with that mindset, why would I turn that question around and ask it of God? “Who do you say I am?” And then risk what that answer would demand of me?
How often have I thought God abandoned me because, in hindsight, a path he pointed me to seemed like a dead-end? Only to discover it offered a critical lesson I needed to learn before moving on. If I could just become more self-aware and present to God as I walk this uncertain path, whether I obtain clarity in the process or not, much of my angst and fear will surely turn into trust and a peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7). I’m working on that.
I have no idea what’s around the next corner for me, and frankly, I don’t need to know. I only know this: God is always with me. He is by my side. He is my biggest cheerleader. He forgives my stupidity and delights in giving me second chances. Yeah me!
At the end of the day, hopefully, he will welcome me home, where I will hear those immortal words, “Pretty well done, Linda. Not bad for a messy human.”
Pretty well done indeed – I’ll take it!