Finishing Faithfully 2.0: How to Answer the Question “Who Am I Now?”
How to Answer the Question “Who Am I Now?”
Finishing Faithfully 2.0
Psychologists tell us that a major change in someone’s life circumstance usually brings a shift in the way that person sees him or herself. Of course, every change doesn’t bring a full-blown identity crisis, but each change can very likely bring at least some small shift in the sense of identity. For example, a redefinition of identity could come through a career promotion, as well as through retirement. Having a baby can raise identity issues, just as watching the last child leave home can bring some emotional uncertainty.
The inner questions we consciously or unconsciously ask during a life change are: “Who am I now?” “How do I handle the opportunities in this new life circumstance?” Soul searching can be productive, but it is rarely easy. In today’s culture, some may be inspired to settle identity issues through tattoos that proclaim who they love or what they value. Tattooing is one way to try to bring permanence to the shifting realities of life.
Of course, there is no permanence to this earthly life. But appropriate soul searching can lead to healthy things such as: reaching out to trusted friends for advice, seeing past mistakes more clearly, making amends, deepening relationships, and finding a wise path for a new stage of life.
In their book, Whatever the Cost, Jason and David Benham discuss the difficulty of leaving Major League Baseball and giving up their identities as professional athletes. They say one of the primary lessons they learned was: “If you define yourself by what you do, then success or failure at what you do will dictate your self worth…but as Christians, we…[learned to] rest in the fact that we are not defined by the jobs we hold in our hands–we are defined by the One who holds us in His hand.” (p.65)
Hanging on to healthy truths such as the Benham brothers did is a great way to keep our equilibrium when life turns upside down on us.
Former U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower carried the following anonymous poem around in his pocket to help him keep perspective on worldly success and the fluctuations of public opinion:
Take a bucket, fill it with water,
Put your hand in–clear up to the wrist.
Now pull it out; the hole that remains
Is a measure of how much you’ll be missed.
The moral of this quaint example:
To do just the best that you can,
Be proud of yourself, but remember,
There is no indispensable man!
This set of verses speaks well to the issue of identity. No matter how good we are at our jobs, none of us is indispensable, and our jobs don’t define who we are. One of the Benham brothers accepted a job as a janitor for the first year after he left Major League Baseball. Though it brought a difficult identity shift, he says he daily reminded himself that faithfulness in doing the little things proves a man can also be entrusted with bigger things.
Perhaps having such personal standards of excellence is one way of establishing our identity, at least to ourselves. And whether we are performing for a large audience or doing a thankless task anonymously, if we always provide the best quality we can, that’s a way of establishing some measure of stability around ourselves in this ever-changing world.