Who do you Say that i Am?

Identity.  This word has been coming up in conversation much lately and I am compelled to contemplate why.  I’d like to say that at my advanced (almost 40) age I would have this identity question figured out, I don’t.  It is interesting for me to note that others struggle with it too.  The pastor with whom we share office space struggles with it in his 40’s.  My female colleague and fellow seminary grad does, I do, my husband does.  There seems to be no end to the dilemma. 

The other day my eldest son brought home a book, “When I Grow Up.”  In it were the short descriptions and pictures that he and his fellow 2nd grade classmates want to be when they grow up.  Typically the half dozen male football and basketball stars littered the page as well as a couple actresses and teachers from the girls.  In the mix were a couple of military men and one woman police officer (You go GIRl!)  Displayed proudly on page 3 was my son, the snake hunter.  Of all the professions that he has discussed, snake hunter makes the pages, complete with an illustration.  A couple years ago it was a marine biologist, a volcanologist, or a demolition derby race car drive.  I remember hearing him at age 3 telling me he wanted to study underwater volcanoes and bring new meaning to volcanologists.  Yup, he was 3.  When he CHOSE his first Halloween costume (also at age 3) he was a pickle monster-an invention of his own mind.  You bet I made him a pickle monster costume…it is amazing what green pillowcases and a beanie can do!

Why did I share this?  His imagination allows him to be whatever he wants to be.  He rattles off the newest idea with flair and confidence, never believing that he won’t accomplish them.  I can’t tell him he won’t be a snake hunter ( although I hope he does not bring them to me when he visits).  I am not sure his future wife will want them in the house.  I can tell him that I would rather he not be a demolition derby race car driver because I would prefer he keep safe.  However, if that is what he is bound to be….let him at it.

I envy that confidence. I am smack dab in the middle of that conflict right now.  I am adopted.  That is no secret.  I grew up in one identity, knowing that I was chosen by that family.  I will not go into the adoption card right now as that is mine, and no one elses story.  Some want to know their birth, others choose not to and that is a deeply personal choice.  For me, it caused a constant struggle as to who I was and what I was to do.  No skin felt right.  I was not an athlete.  I was not quiet and meek, I was anything but.  I was a communicator from birth, not quite the powerhouse I knew in my heart I could be.  Never had the look or grace to be the actress I felt in my gut….or the confidence to belt the song that my shower and car heard.  Never was the pretty girl to match the attitude and talent others saw, and I knew it.  I was a good communicator and I was a good teacher.

There again, however, the skin did not fit.  I did not want to teach to tests.  I wanted to teach children, high school students.  I knew there was limitless potential in them and I loved watching the dawn of personal understanding come into their eyes.  I relished the conversations, the wrestling with creative concepts, the chance to look at something in a new way.  I loved it~  call it a teachinggasm!!!

Then I entered Seminary, not a pastor i would be.  3 1/2 years later, I am not a total teacher, though parts of me are.  I am not a congregational pastor, though I understand Chaplaincy and pastoral care.  I am a writer, though I have nothing published.  I am an actress though I have performed in nothing since college, and even that was minimal.  I am an MDIV graduate, with no set congregation or place to call home.  I am in charge of communications and marketing for a non profit that is seeing such momentum that it amazes me, but for the last 3 1/2 years I have brought in hardly any cash revenue.  The guilt weighs heavy on me.  The moments that I brought in the most dough were when I was management and sales at the mall, and then my children never saw me.  I KNOW i am not supposed to do that for a living.

So, here i sit listening to my sons come in from outside as they watch Veggie Tales and the Pirates who don’t do Anything.  That’s how I feel.  Like I do not do anything.  So, where is that identity?  Am I content without a title, a home, security?  Am I ok just being and letting ideas and dreams go for the greater good?  I do not honestly know.  In my family, excellence was expected, a 2nd place trophy brought sarcasm, ( and i came home with many of them).  Conversely, good grades, scholarships, and 1st place finishes got me notoriety.  I knew it.  I feel like I have failed in my quest to be a good kid and prove to my family and others that I was worth their time.  You see, they chose me, they did not have to take me.  They did, and there were so many times I failed them–all of them.  Now, with a grad degree and a cauldron of dreams, I have nothing to show them or anyone.  What have I done?  What legacy have I left?  Of what would my children be proud?  When other kids make  fun of my son’s mother cause she looks funny ( they do make fun, we know that), what grounds my sons and what will they say mom does?  What contribution do I make and does it matter?

The scene in Jesus Christ Superstar comes into play every time I think of this topic.  when Jesus is being questioned as to His identity–“Who do YOU say that I am?”  This resonates with me.  What do I want and why.  To what end do I work and work and work.  I cannot answer.  I hate that I can’t answer that.  It makes me feel selfish and it calls me to question my motives.  Why do I want what I want?  For fame, glory, money, or respect?  Maybe part of that is true.  Maybe I don’t want to be the loser I believe my family and classmates and college colleagues believed I was/am.  Maybe I want what I want to validate my own existence and my rightful place in my family.  Maybe I have been chasing that the whole time in an effort to feel like I belonged and was needed–not just needed but wholly wanted.  Typing that last sentence brought tears to my eyes as the human part of me battles with the spirit that knows what I just said is wrong.  Damn, what will I be when i GROW up!  I don’t know and I am coming to knowledge that I just may have no clue as to how to get there.

Maybe admitting that is step one..maybe, just maybe.

shalom,

cahl

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