Growing up, the first days of school were not always my favorite. Showing off my new shoes and seeing friends after summer break were slightly appealing. Although by 9 am, we would all be nearly asleep, annoyed with the teacher standing in front of the class rambling on and on about their rules and procedures. Even still, the worst part of the first day was when the teacher instructed us to go around the room or even worse, stand up, and introduce ourselves. “Hi, my name is Alisha and …….” For whatever reason, I always struggled with that second part and typically resolved to throw in descriptors like soccer player, sophomore, sister, studying elementary education… And while that would suffice the teacher, deep down I always longed to know the answer, “Who am I?” really. This feeling only amplified this past year and a half as my health crashed and I could no longer teach or eat, walk or run, read or drive. Instead confined to a wheelchair spending 90% of my days in bed, I felt completely lost.
The more I voiced this feeling to others, the more found I was not alone. Even people with the best of jobs, perfect health, loving family, and 80 years of life’s experience seemed to struggle. Therefore I began searching within my own life as well as men and women throughout history like Louis Zamperini, Anne Frank, Martin Luther King Jr. and Jesus for answers and much to my surprise, I found a consistent pattern: Before we are able to figure out who or what defines us or the reason for any significance in our lives, I believe we must first answer the question, “Who is Jesus to me?”.
In the Book of Matthew chapter 16 starting in verse 13, we read, “When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.
Notice when Jesus asked the question, the disciples initially responded with various opinions of others. Is that your response as well? Do you answer with what your minister or boyfriend say, maybe your grandparents or friends? Though just the same as then, Jesus isn’t concerned about what everyone else thinks. It’s personal, a heart matter. And I believe each day that breath fills our lungs and we are given another day of life, Jesus fills in your name and asks the same question. “________, who do YOU say I am?”
I love how renown author C.S Lewis explains the dilemma in answering this question in his book “Mere Christianity”, “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic–on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg–or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse…. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
It is clear that we must choose where we stand when it comes to Jesus for the answer contains the entirety of our identity, our purpose, the guide map to our lives… Especially in our world today with so much brokenness, despair is so often what fills our lives… Situations change. Our bodies fall apart. People, even those we love, may walk away and reject us. Although I promise you that if you choose Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior you will not be disappointed. For as it says in Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” We are also adopted into the family of God and become the sons and daughters of God, far deeper than any biological bloodline.
1st John 2 says, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”
Galatians 4 says, “So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.”
As we trust Jesus with our lives and become part of His family, we no longer find ourselves consumed entirely with “me” and can look up to follow Jesus’ example of living out “we”. He doesn’t promise ease, although even when hard times come and it feels like we are drowning, he will never abandon us. He also surrounds us with his people to love and share life with, as well as challenges us to obey his word by reaching out and serving, being generous with our time, money and resources.
So as I lay in bed this week, I can rest assured that my identity is not defined in what I can or cannot do, a role I’m supposed to play, a number on the scale, a mile time, or even what others say about me. The truth is I belong to Jesus and I am now who He says I am: A beautiful, beloved daughter of the King. And though the enemy has intended to destroy me, God is going to use me and all I have been through for his glory. Will you join me?