My favorite musical of all time is “Les Misérables.” The musical has been around for over 40 years, so it’s likely you have seen it. If not, the musical (supposedly) takes place during the French Revolution, and follows the life of its protagonist, Jean Valjean, through harsh imprisonment to becoming a major of a town. His transformation to mayor, however, requires him to invent a fake identity, a false name, because he is being relentlessly pursued by a vengeful policeman.
One of my favorite scenes in the musical is when Jean Valjean sings, “Who Am I?” He sings about the inner turmoil of seeing another person mistaken as him – the “old” Valjean who was a convict – being condemning to prison and the prospect of freedom. After all, if this man who resembles him goes to jail, Valjean will finally be free of the past. Ultimately, Valjean finds that freedom in boldly declaring who he is.
The idea of “Who Am I” deeply resonates with me. It’s weird to think we can go through life not really knowing who we are, but many of us do. I’m over 50 years old and still not sure of who I really am. Is it possible to change as we age and experience life differently? We have all heard about the “mid-life crisis,” which apparently causes people to do crazy things like buy sports cars they can’t afford, seek out extramarital affairs, change jobs…all because they hit a certain age. The reality is, most people who are “middle aged” have lived most of their lives, and lots of people don’t know what to do with that.
Sometimes, I think I feel pretty grounded and self-aware, and then other times, I really struggle to live in the present and absorb – not just “experience” my life. I’ve played the “description game” to figure out who I am. I can describe my physical attributes, my roles (i.e. wife, mother, friend, daughter, sister, etc.). I can describe my talents or spiritual gifts, or identify things I’m good/bad at. All of these things tell me something about me, but they don’t tell me WHO I am.
The truth is, apart from God, I don’t think we can really answer this question in its entirety. God’s Word tells us who we are, and He says it in powerful ways:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons (and daughters) through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:3-7; italics added)
“…and we have a priceless inheritance– an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. “(1 Peter 1:4 NLT; italics added)
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” (1 John 3:1; italics added)
Yes, that’s WHO I AM. A child of God. God’s daughter. He chose me to walk in good works He prepared for me long ago. He considers me a masterpiece. (Ephesians 2:10 NLT).
I cannot wrap my head around being a masterpiece. When I hear the word “masterpiece,” I think of something extraordinary, like a Van Gogh painting, a Rodin sculpture, a Beethoven sonata. But me? I see nothing extraordinary about myself. But God does. The mighty God of all creation, the King of the Universe, sees me as His masterpiece. He considers ME His daughter. His word tells me I am adopted into His family through the redemptive work of the cross. Jesus brought me into the family. I have a priceless, imperishable inheritance awaiting me in heaven.
This is who I am. Everything else about me describes me. But at my core, I am a child of God. And I was created for a purpose: to bring glory to my Heavenly Father, to walk in the works He prepared for me, to be obedient to His will.
It’s sometimes (ok, most of the time) hard to imagine a love like that. We know human love. We look at ourselves and others according to human standards. We do not think like God. We cannot. We never will. And that’s ok. We just have to believe what He tells us.
The more we can remind ourselves by using scripture to tell us WHO WE ARE IN CHRIST, the more sense we make out of our lives. The more we lean into this truth, the more we see our purpose. The more we embrace that our true identity lies with the Lord, the more we recognize the good works the Lord Himself prepared for us. We realize that life isn’t really about us.
Seek until you know, really know, who God says you are.
Growing in Grace