Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Who Am I?

One of my favorite stupid comedies of all time is Zoolander. In it, Derek Zoolander is dismayed when he loses the status of #1 male model to Hansel ("he's so hot right now"). After the ceremony that puts Hansel above Derek, he's seen walking the streets, not knowing what to do with his life. He looks at a reflection of himself and asks, "Who am I?" His reflection answers, "I don't know."

I think, although this is a wildly stupid Ben Stiller movie, that this scene speaks volumes about human thinking. Derek was so distraught that he'd been dethroned as the top male model that he questioned who he was. He was lost. He'd been at that spot for the past four years, and when that was taken away, so was his identity. He looked to his own reflection and wondered what, if not the top male model, was he.

God made us all different. He gave us all different gifts, different abilities, different interests. These are good things that the good Lord has blessed us with, and some of them can even help describe who we are. But when those good things of the Lord stop describing us and start defining us, we've misused those gifts. When our identity is wrapped in the temporal blessing rather than the infinite God who blesses, we're doomed to fail.

There are so many adjectives we use to describe ourselves that we can easily take on as our name. Black, white, fat, thin, tall, short, athletic, musically-inclined, gay, straight, student, minister, doctor, poet, author, blogger, hippie, Republican, Democrat, reader, gamer, sinner, saint, ugly, pretty, misshapen, whatever else you can think of to put here. Good or bad, we run into trouble when we let these define us, when these things consume us and we let them become all that we are.

In biblical times, names meant more than what they mean now. In Genesis 35, we see God change Jacob's name essentially from Deceiver to One Who Struggles with God. Later on in that same chapter, we see Jacob change his own son's name from Ben-Oni ("Son of my sorrows," given to him by his mother's dying breath) to Benjamin ("Son of my right hand"). I think these instances of renaming are beautiful pictures of what God does. We can take up as our names our struggles, or what we dislike about ourselves, or even what we like about ourselves. But God comes in and says, "No, I have something better for you. You are Mine. You are My beloved child, whom I love. I bought you with the blood of My one and only Son whom I love dearly. The cost was great, but I don't regret it. Shake off that old self; that's not who you are. I'll tell you who you are. You are a beloved child of the Most High."

I know I struggle with labeling myself by my talents or my failures or whatever thing I choose to listen to about myself. But, as Tyler Durden says in Fight Club, "You are not your job. You're not how much money you have in the bank. You're not the car you drive. You're not the contents of your wallet." Where Tyler fails to give a "You are" amidst all the "You are not," Jesus steps in and says, "You are My beloved."

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. -Romans 8:15-17