One question that seems to plague us is, "who am I?"
Everyone has periods when we try to figure out who we are. There are certain transitional moments, such as when people leave behind their parents' faith and develop their own. And then there are yimes where a significant shift takes place: the loss of career or spouse or even the empty nest.
Sometimes, people struggle to re-create themselves. I am reminded of the middle-school years and how a pre-teen may move from one group of friends to the next, trying to find who he or she is.
For others it may be going back to school, starting a new career or getting remarried.
It can look like a midlife crisis. All these things cause us to pause and ask that question, "who am I?"
This question eventually leads back to God. As a Christ follower, I am convinced that God is the only one who really knows who I am. He also knows who He made me to become. And no matter how hard I look for it, I cannot find an adequate answer, apart from Jesus.
Sometimes we think "I need to trust my inner voice to find the answer." Researchers tell us we have thousands of silent conversations with ourselves every day. The vast majority, around 80 percent, according to some research, are entirely negative. We hear a recording in our own voice telling us things like, "you are a fool", "you can't do it," "you are a fraud", "you will never make it," "you don't measure up," "you are fat and ugly," etc. So we find ourselves in a paradox. When my focus is on me, I tend to be most unhappy even though I don't really know who I am. I may even be fixated on that question, working it over in my mind and never finding a satisfactory answer.
Throughout much of Jesus ministry, his disciples were jockeying for position behind Jesus. There seemed to be a struggle to see which of them was the "greatest." The book of Matthew tells us that Jesus asks his disciples a similar question.
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" "Well," they replied, "some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets." 15 Then he asked them, "But who do you say I am?" 16 Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." (Matthew 16:13-16)
Jesus doesn't ask because he doesn't know who he is. He asks to help his followers discover his true nature. But something powerful happens when Peter blurts out the answer. Peter proclaims Jesus as the "Messiah" or the Son of the Living God. Peter's declaration is a true act of worship. And in the next breath Jesus, gave Peter a glimpse of who he (Peter) really was.
"Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock'), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven."
Peter wasn't asking Jesus to tell him about himself, his answer and the object of his focus and worship was Jesus. As it turns out, the person God made you to be can only be revealed by God when we are in a posture of worship, because our lives are meant to be lived in concert with God. And if Peter hadn't proclaimed Jesus as the Christ, he would never have caught a glimpse of who he was.
When you struggle with the question "who am I," allow it to lead you toward Jesus. The answer to who you really are is wrapped up in who he really is. As you worship Jesus, he will reveal to you who he sees you to be or who you may yet become. And that is just one side effect of worshipping Jesus Christ.
The Rev. Jim Snyder is pastor of Blue Mountain Community Church. Email him at Heypastor1@gmail.com