Who Are You?

Who are you? Are you your political party affiliation? Your credentials, degrees, education, professional memberships? Are you your title at work? Your role at home? Your portfolio or bank account balance? Who are you?

I’d love to hear your response. And, if you’re a person of faith, I’m curious how that would inform your identity—and, more importantly, where you’d rank it in your response.

In his marvelous new book, The Dangerous Act of Worship (InterVarsity Press, 2007), Berkeley pastor (and dear friend) Mark Labberton reminds us of the unusual circumstances of Ben Weir. I’ll let Mark tell the story himself:

“Ben Weir, a Presbyterian missionary in Lebanon, was suddenly taken captive on the street near his home in Beirut. He was stuffed into the trunk of a car and driven away, the start of what would be more than sixteen months of captivity. When he awoke the next morning, he was blindfolded and chained to a radiator in what seemed to be a very small room. Ben began to do something he repeated often in those days—he practiced remembering who he was. He would say to himself, ‘I am the same person, child and missionary of the same God, husband of the same wife, father to the same children, professor to the same students.’ He would remind himself, ‘I am the same person I was yesterday. I was not a captive then. Today I am. But that’s the only thing that’s different.’ The circumstances of Ben’s life had radically changed, but his life was still in Christ, just as it had been the day before. He was living in God in captivity. For Ben, this is what shaped his whole experience of being held hostage” (p. 88).

How radically freeing! How often do we, unlike Ben Weir, define ourselves as the sum total of our circumstances? How often do we allow superficialities and situations to determine our core identity? Ben stayed centered because his identity in Christ was big enough and durable enough to define him—despite his setting.

I have another friend struggling with terminal cancer who’s similar to Ben, identity-wise. She refuses to define herself as a cancer patient. That’s not who she is, not at her core, at least. She’s a disciple of Jesus, a beloved daughter of God through faith. She’s been baptized and given new birth in Christ. These unseen realities are who she really is. They’re bigger than chemo, prognoses, and illnesses. That’s who she is. Who are you?


mbpbooks said...

Interesting that Weir's self-definitions under duress were all relational. Makes me think of the high rate of suicide among American suburban/urban teens -- perhaps a sign of a profound loneliness -- in contrast to the low rate among their peers in rural India, where each person is known by at least a dozen different names, all revealing that individual's particular connection to someone else.

Carl Hofmann said...

What a great reminder that our core identity is formed in relationships, not activities. Thanks, Mitali!