Tell me once again
Who I am to you, who I am to you
Tell me lest I forget
Who I am to you, that I belong to you…
The lyrics of Jason’ s Gray’s song, Remind Me Who I Am, provide the background for this moment of peace and rest in which I find myself–what feels like the first peaceful moment in a rush of days over the last week and a half. The words find me exactly when I need them.
In mid-August, I came back to work after a refreshing month-long leave of absence. However, within a week of the new term starting, I felt like the refreshment that I had carefully cultivated and stored up during the break had evaporated and been wicked away like water poured out on parched land. Busy-ness took over my life: days, evenings, and weekends devoted to keeping my head above the torrent of work associated with a large class. And it crowded out my daily “sabbath moments”–times to rest and re-acquaint myself with Jesus’ truth. I was tired and running dry. Then the term ended–only another started a week later with a surprising addition: I would teach a class that I hadn’t had any experience with before. I about wilted at the thought.
Now, a week later, I’m still alive (you do what you have to, I guess) and thankful to have found this moment of rest. The last week felt excruciatingly long, containing only one evening “off,” but in the midst of it, I think I’ve noticed a trend within myself. The uncomfortable truth is that much of the stress has not come so much from how much work I have had to put in (though that has been part of it), but that in this situation I don’t really have it together–in fact, I haven’t really had it together since August when the first fall term started. It has been frustrating to not feel comfortable or in control of situations at work, with regard to “spiritual disciplines” like prayer, Bible study and meditating on God’s truth, or even with regard to the cleanliness of my home.
Finally, this week, I’m realizing that the problem over the last few months has not been primarily with the workload, but with my attempts to evaluate my worth in terms of what I do and how well I do it. What a lie to run after–one which distracts me from Jesus, who knows just how wildly I don’t measure up in any arena of life, but who has saved me from the spiritual death that chasing after establishing my worth leads to. Instead of chasing after myself and building up achievements to point to, I have been given the gift of humbly knowing that I have been saved from a hollow self-focused existence and brought into a kingdom blazing with His life and love.
Yet the realization of that in my daily life is something that I’m still learning. This week I’ve been reading Paul’s description to the Corinthians of how he first presented the Gospel to them. He described himself as stammering it out without any great eloquence, but that this was a demonstration of the Spirit’s power–God’s message flaming forth in His strength. What a contrast of a picture: stammering as a demonstration of God’s power! Such I suppose is the paradox of God’s kingdom advancing on earth: our weaknesses actually showcasing His power…somehow. It looks so different from my self-focused picture of being strengthened by God meaning that I feel and look competent.
And so, in this world where what I see does not visibly convey the truth of Jesus’ kingdom, I must be reminded of who I am, whose I am. I must remind myself daily, so that I may not look at what I do and how I do it, but so that I will delight in Jesus and the greater life and joy that He gives.
Meanwhile, the immediate message to our hearts […] is surely this: do I, as a Christian, understand myself? Do I know my own real identity? My own real destiny? I am a child of God. God is my Father; heaven is my home; every day is one day nearer. My Saviour is my brother; every Christian is my brother too. Say it over and over to yourself first thing in the morning, last thing at night, as you wait for the bus, any time when your mind is free, and ask that you might be enabled to live as one who knows it is all utterly and completely true. For this is the Christian’s secret of –a happy life?–yes, certainly, but we have something both higher and profounder to say. This is the Christian’s secret of a Christian life, and of a God-honouring life: and these are the aspects of the situation that really matter. May the secret become fully yours and fully mine.
[Knowing God, JI Packer, pp. 207-208]