I recently was introduced to Stephen Levine, author of , Unattended Sorrow: Recovering from Loss and Reviving the Heart. He asks an important question: Who are we when we are not who we thought we were? He then presents us with a litany of questions which are examples of situations in life that we have faced or will perhaps face in the future.
“By what means do I know myself?
Who am I when I am no longer a parent because my child died?
Who am I after I am divorced after 37 years?
When my husband died shoveling snow off the driveway?
When my surviving parent has died and, quite beyond earlier consideration, I find myself feeling somewhat orphaned?
When I have cancer or am going blind from diabetes?
When nothing that I have ever known before defines my present experience?
When who I am is not who I was?”
These are important questions to ask. We usually ask ourselves these kind of questions when our lives have been turned upside down. This past September, I began a journey after 44 years of life to find out who I really was, or should I say who I really am? I found that when I hit 30 it was difficult. I felt with the passing of my 20’s it was time to grow up. It was time to be a man. Forty was not too difficult, but in 6 weeks or so I will turn 45. I am prone to anxiety and I find myself feeling a little anxious about this event. Levine tells us that our 40’s are a decade in our lives when we start thinking about unfinished business. I think about the need to get my doctoral thesis behind me. The need to make sure that I provide a home for my wife upon our retirement, and will I have enough money to survive in my golden years. These are the kinds of questions that I am beginning to ask myself. This still does not answer the question: When who I am is not who I was? I am a United Methodist Pastor, it is my calling, but it is also my job. Who would I be if tomorrow I woke up and no longer was a United Methodist Pastor? The answer is, I would still be Phillip Dearman. I would still have the same proclivities. I would still be me, although an important part of my identity would be gone.
The events that occur in our lives can, and do affect our spirituality. The events will either make us stronger or weaker. As christ followers we know that God has given us the ability to deal with the problems of life. God has called us to ask ourselves the question: When who I am was is not who I was? The reality is that for Christ followers; we will still be Christ followers. Scripture teaches us that God is love, “and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that been given us, (Romans 5:5, NRSV). “God is love, (1 John 4:7, NRSV). The question: When who I am is not who I was? I will still be God’s child. I will still be immersed in the love of God. Our identity as Christ followers will remain intact, and it will be because of the love of God.