By Jamie Perttula
I wonder at times, do I define myself in the way God defines me? Do I really know fully who I am or who I am meant to be? We could approach these questions from several angles. We could look at them from the perspective of our brokenness. As Christians, we acknowledge that we are sinful, yet we also know that God views us as righteous through the filter of Christ. God sees us differently and also calls us to turn away from our sin and live differently, to redefine ourselves.
We could approach this from the perspective of character (which may or may not be linked to the issue of sin). Many passages in the New Testament talk about the qualities of a follower of Jesus – patience, kindness, filled with peace and joy. The list goes on. In 2 Corinthians, Paul talks about those in Christ being new creations. The old has passed away and the new has come. I think this relates a lot to our character – the changing of our anger, pride, jealousy and pettiness into love, humility, joyfulness and more. From this perspective, it may not be that God sees us as having these qualities, but God sees our potential and calls us to develop and redefine ourselves. God works to bring these character traits to fruition in us. I, on the other hand, don’t always want to let go of pride and anger. I am often pleased with my idea of myself.
Another angle on this question that I have been pondering is that of vocation and gifts. Clark’s last blog posting touched on the notion of discovering our gifts, of identifying the things we do well, and exploring how they will shape our lives. This has been part of my journey, recognizing my talents, passions and interests, and trying to live fully in those. Over the years, I have been coming to a greater understanding of who I am and trying to be more myself (although I am still working this out). I have a job that matches my talents, passions and interests pretty well. I get involved in activities in the community and at church that reflect my understanding of my gifts. I engage in hobbies and pastimes that are an expression of me.
But is that all that God sees? Do I have a full picture of who I am, my gifts and “calling”? I recently reread the story of Moses. Here was a man who was raised in a royal household and probably groomed for leadership. And yet, when God called him to lead the people of Israel out of slavery, he was full of self-doubt and objections. God persisted in calling Moses and gave him the support and resources that he needed. God had a different definition of who Moses was than Moses had of himself.
In the last couple of years, I have taken on more formal leadership roles, both at work and at church. It felt right even though I have had some doubts and anxieties about it. While I have been in leadership in the past, I had some doubts about my abilities, and lacked confidence. I resisted newer leadership roles for some time, not feeling that I have all that is required for these roles, (and not wanting some of the headaches).
But then I started to wonder if perhaps I was resisting too much. How can we fully know if we are gifted in a particular way until we put it to the test? Even if we are naturally talented in something, how can we develop a skill or gift without using it? How can I discover more of who I am, of how God sees me, if I don’t step out? Or how can I experience God’s power at work in me if I don’t take risks in areas where I feel weak?
The Bible talks about God’s power being shown in our weakness. God doesn’t just call us to use our strengths for him, but sometimes calls us into areas of our weakness. In these kinds of situations, I have been learning to draw more on God.
I could identify other areas in my life in which I have changed as a result of God leading and working in my life. This has changed the way I define myself, but I still sees aspects of my life that don’t match God’s definition of me. I still have questions about what more there might be about me and who I am becoming. So, do we ever stop discovering who we are? Or to put it another way, do we ever arrive at who we are?