Who are you?
It's a simple enough question...until you think about it. Who are you?
Who am I?
It's said that knowing yourself is the highest form of knowledge. Which is seems strange I guess. I mean, who should know you better than you? Who would know me better than me?
I can confidently say that I USED to know who I was...or at least I thought I did. In fact, it was a fact that I prided myself on. What happens when all that apparent self awareness goes out the window? What then becomes of my identity?
When we were kids, it was an easy question to answer. "What's your name?" and "How old are you?" Those two questions for a few years would completely sum up our identity to everyone else. Think about it. When you meet a little child, those are the first two questions you ask and then you may indulge their chatter about a blanket, a toy, or something else, but the truth is, you've kind of gotten all the pertinents at this point.
As we grow though, things begin to develop in us. We develop personalities, passions, and dreams. Our experiences teach us life lessons and we incorporate what we learn into the way we go through life for good or ill. Sometimes, we choose to be the hero of our story, overcoming odds and obstacles with superhuman-like determination and skill. Sometimes, we choose to be the victim of our circumstances and let hard experiences determine the way we will respond to other decisions in our lives. Sometimes it's our mistakes that we let shape us. Sometimes our successes become the things we grow out of and move on to the next success. By the time we reach a place of adulthood, our identities are pretty much in place whether we recognize that or not.
Ironically, the people around may sometimes know us better than we know ourselves.
That has been the case in my life it seems.
Take the Star Wars room for example. (I have a room with all my Star Wars collectibles both on display and in storage in my house...I call it the Star Wars room.) The minute I expressed my intentions to begin to get rid of it, people began to get worried. When I asked why, I was told it was because that room was a part of who I am. Really? Did I really get so wrapped up in my life in a series of movies that these things that I never worked on, never really invested myself in, never really had a stake in their success that they became part of my identity? Yes...I guess they did. On one hand, that's not too bad. I guess it could have been a lot worse. On the other hand, that's kind of embarrassing. Don't get me wrong, I have always been a fan of Star Wars. I truly enjoy the stories, the visuals, the characters...everything about the series of movies I enjoy. I don't know that I ever want MOVIES to define me though.
Truth be told though, while I never invested in the films themselves, I invested a lot of time into the fandom.
Then there's my job. I'm a youth pastor. Is that who I am? Is that all I am? I am more confident than ever in my life that my calling is to teenagers right now. I enjoy so much the time I spend with "my kids." I have a heart that longs for my kids to walk in the light of God's grace and fully experience the abundant life that Jesus has promised to us all through Him. But...is my identity just Steve Glosson - youth pastor. If that is my identity, is it enough? Is that what I really am supposed to be? What happens if I'm not a youth pastor anymore? Who am I then?
I have some talent. I don't say that arrogantly. I'm just saying...I have some talent. I can talk. Put me in front of a group of people, and I can talk. I might even make them laugh. (No guarantees on that though.) Put me in front of a microphone and I can carry on a conversation with myself about nothing at all. I can talk. That's the talent I have. So...I'm a talker...or to put it more professionally, I'm a speaker. But is that all I am? What happens if I lose my voice? What happens if people decide they don't want to listen to me talk anymore? What happens if I suddenly one day have nothing to say? Who am I then?
I've got friends. I love my friends. My friends and I laugh together. We hang out together. We're there for each other. We do things that we all enjoy together. I've had some great friends and I have some great friends. What happens when I'm alone though? What happens if I am ever called to leave where my friends are and go somewhere that I know no one? What happens if I let my friends down beyond their ability to forgive me and I lose them? What happens if my friends leave me? What happens if my friends disappoint me and I want nothing to do with them anymore? Who am I then? If my friends are my identity what happens if they are all gone?
I've got a family. Man do I have a family! My family is made up of a bunch of attention grabbing, loud, fun loving people. We get together and the house gets loud. I never feel more at home than when I'm with my family. My brothers and sisters are some of my favorite people in the world. I think they kind of like me too. It seems that no matter where I go in South Georgia, someone knows my dad or someone else in my family. So there's a reputation that comes with my family name. What happens if my family's gone though? What happens if one day I chose to take a different name? What happens if I move somewhere that people don't really know my family at all? If my identity is my family what happens when it's just me and the family isn't around? Who am I then?
I like having fun. Fun is...fun. Laughing feels great. Sitting around telling fun stories, going new places, enjoying the company of friends and meeting new people, going places that I enjoy being with people that I enjoy being with, it all is fun and I enjoy having fun. What happens when things aren't fun though? What happens when the fun stops? What happens when life hands me a season of non-fun? If fun defines me who am I then?
Experiences. When I say "experiences," why does my mind immediately go to negative experiences? I wonder if other people do the same thing. Ok..so negative experiences. I've had some negative experiences in my life. Some caused by my own hand, some that just happened because bad things happen in life. If I'm defined by the bad things that have happened in my life, what happens in the good times? When things are just ok how do I respond in those moments? If I'm defined by the negative things in my life and that is my focus, how do I see the good and do the good times then become bad because I missed them? If that's my identity do I even like myself?
What about positive experiences? There have been some great things happen in my life. I've walked on the mountain top so to speak. I've enjoyed success. I've had quiet moments of peace. I've been thrilled by a rush of excitement in a moment of sheer joy. I've laughed a lot. I've enjoyed the simple things. But, if I'm only defined by the good times, who am I in the bad times? If I only cling to my positive experiences, did I ever really learn anything from the negative ones? What happens if the day comes when I have no more positive experiences? Who would I be then?
I'm in a place in my life that I've never really been before. I'm truly seeking and discovering who I am. I said in my first post here that God brought me to a point where He lovingly broke me. He called me to lay down so many things that I had wrapped myself in for so long. Things that I thought were so important to me. Things that I allowed to be my identity. I was Steve the youth pastor. Steve the podcaster. Steve the fun guy. Steve the bitter guy. Steve the arrogant guy. Steve the smart guy. Steve the talented speaker. Steve the center of attention. Steve the joker. (One who makes jokes...not the bad guy from Batman.) Steve who is only serious if he absolutely has to be. Steve the guy who brushes off things that he just doesn't want to deal with. Steve the bad boyfriend. Steve the fun friend. Steve the cynical guy. Steve the movie geek. Steve the comic book geek. Steve the Star Wars geek. Steve the geek. All of these things made up who I was and quite frankly, I had to be broken from all of it to get down to the core of my identity.
In the weeks that followed my chaotic experience with the grace of God I had a truly great friend who was encouraging me as I seemed to continuously beat myself up for all of my mistakes. He would tell me in several times in several conversations, "Steve...you weren't all bad." I wouldn't allow myself to see this for a while. I thought that my identity was now Steve the guy who messed up really bad. Steve the guy who is just a shell of who he once was. But thanks to my friend, God began to speak to my heart and show me that the reason He had to break me from everything that I let define me was to show me who I am at my core.
I'm Steve Glosson...in Christ. (Just let me stop and say , "Thank you God for showing me that I would never be content or walk in the fullness of who you have for me to be until I realized that simple fact...I'm who I am in You.")
That's who I am. I'm in Christ. That's how my friend could look at me and say, "You weren't all bad." That's why I can point to so many times in my life where God has chosen to work through me and use me in spite of myself. Because there was a moment in history where I gave myself to Christ. In that moment, the work of grace in my life was activated so that I am now as Paul said, "crucified with Christ." Because of that, it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. I indentify with Christ. In my flesh I still fail. I still make mistakes. I am not bound to, nor am I defined by those mistakes and failures. Because I identify with Christ, I am defined by who He is.
Stop a second and think about that. Because I identify with Christ, I am defined by who He is.
I'm not saying I am Christ or that I am even A Christ. I'm saying that my identity begins with Christ and His work in me. So who am I? I'm Steve Glosson in Christ. (I can't type that sentence without welling up. It's an amazing thing to think about.)
In my imagination, I see myself looking around at broken down walls and shattered ideas. It's like I see a debris field and I'm looking to see if there's anything salvageable with which to rebuild who I am. Then, I hear a voice say, "I am rebuilding you. I am transforming you. I am giving you your identity in me." Then, I recognize that if my identity is in Christ, it's not for me to define myself, rather I wait for Him to define me.
So, if you know me as a podcaster, that's fine...but that's not who I am. If you know me as a funny guy, I'm glad I've made you laugh...but that's not who I am. If you know me as an arrogant jerk, I am truly sorry that I treated you so poorly...but that's not who I am. If you know me as a family member, let's get together and eat...but that's not who I am. If you know me as a friend, I'm so glad to have you in my life and journey together...but that's not who I am. If you know me as a youth pastor, I pray that God has used me in a positive way in your life...but that's not who I am. I'm Steve Glosson...and I'm in Christ. He is showing me daily who I am. As He defines my passions and dreams, as He mends what has been broken, as He restores what has been lost, as He replaces what had to go, I grow more confident in Him. I feel the corners of my mouth begin to twitch upward, because I now there's not a million things that use to define me...there's just one thing to say...I'm Steve Glosson...in Christ.
Who are you?