Who am I? What makes me the person that I am? I have to be honest: I’m not really sure. I have lots of roles. I’m a professor, a mentor, a friend, a lover, a cook, a laundress, a lawn boy, a spiritual director, , an agitator, a letter writer…..and the list goes on. But are any of these things who I am? What’s the essence of me?
When I was three or four years old, I was the little boy who delighted to play in a sand box. I had trucks, and soldiers, and all sorts of toys. I would play games of imagination for hours. Was that me?
As a teenager, I had anxieties that seemed overwhelming. What should I do? How do I fit in? Where’s my place? Honestly, I never figured out those questions, but my concerns over such things faded away. Was that me?
It was so different in my late 20’s! I thought I could take on the world! I was ready to do anything — and I did a lot. As I think back on those years, I wonder: was that really me? Who was that guy who worked so hard, anyway?
Then I was 45. Oh, my! All those things I set out to do twenty years before. Some were great; some not so much. I wondered: was that all there is? Was that all of me?
I’ve now had six decades of life. You’d think I’d understand this thing called life by now. I look back on those younger versions of myself and, well, at times I want to roll my eyes in wonderment at how silly I was and at other times I have great compassion for myself. In looking back, there’s a glimmer of the person I may be. Those were all me, but none of them were fully me.
As I look over my life and the lives of those I know well, I’ve come to understand that to be human isn’t to be one thing. Identity isn’t something fixed and constant over a lifetime. Instead, to be human is to be a happening, a process which is dynamic, which evolves and changes over time. As we grow and change, we do so in the context of others and the situations which we encounter. Who I am is in relationship with others and the events of life. Our lives take shape within the nuances of particular contexts, events, and relationships. From this perspective, it’s clear that we each have multiple dimensions to our identities. Each of us isn’t one thing, but we are many things. But those many things which evolve over time come together as one in our sense of identity.
So what am I yet to become? What will the next twenty or thirty years bring? Who’s to know? But I am sure of this: whoever I am in one moment to the next happens in relationship to others and in the context of events. None of us becomes who we are alone. Instead, it’s through and with each other that we be and become.
As a Christian, I understand the essence of the Divine as a trinity of persons. The Divine isn’t a constant, but happening of relationships. The Divine is three-in-one and one-in-three. In the context of these multiple relationships love begets love. This love is creative, redemptive, and sustaining. It’s absolute goodness and generosity. In considering my own life and what I hope to become, perhaps the greatest aim I could have is also be a happening in the context of others which begets love and manifests it in the world; to be good and to be generous; to be creative; to allow for second chances; and to support and sustain life all around me. Perhaps in this way, to be human is to be Divine.
Is this what my ancestor in faith, Athanasius, stated in the fourth century? God became human so that humans could become Divine. Perhaps in this dynamic happening of an evolving self we each discover who we are most deeply.
Photo credit: Marco Bellucci via Foter.com / CC BY
© 2017, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.