We all were born with the desire to be known. This is not a new feeling but one set in motion even back in biblical times. We place our identity upon accomplishments, successes, titles, what we have; in addition to all things good and yet this desire goes even deeper than our outward productivity! We want everyone to see the very nature of our hearts. We want to be seen, not just by the physical eye, but by the depths of our very souls. We want to be understood and valued as individuals not compared to the world’s thoughts and patterns. We want to be established or fixed in memories; however, we look in the wrong place!
I began reading a poem by Deitrich Bonhoeffer called, “Who Am I” and I want to share a stanza that speaks volumes into our thought processes when we place our identity in wrong places,
“Am I then really that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I myself know of myself?
Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
Struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat,
Yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
Thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
Tossing in expectations of great events,
Powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
Weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
Faint, and ready to say farewell to it all.”
This breaks my heart as his heartfelt plea in finding his true identity can be spoken by so many today. We struggle for a breath of fresh air no longer burdened under the labels of man. We choke as the world grasps us tighter around our necks and we seriously contemplate believing what others say. We yearn for vibrant light in the midst of all the negativity around us. We seek the kindness of a stranger to glance our way offering a smile or help in acknowledgement they indeed saw us. We desire to have the neighborliness knowing that others care and look out for us. And yet, in a world that is at our finger tips, and friendships more “accessible” with a button click, we are still so lonely. We continue on an endless road of striving that we willingly compromise our character in one update of a status or tweet. We believe we are powerless to do or say anything in a world of political correctness and stand trembling as friends become distant if we won’t support their every action. We believe our prayers have lost their power and we drown in the darkness of the world’s standards of being known. We struggle and ask if this life is really worth living.
Bonhoeffer’s poem goes on to say,
“Who am I? This or the Other?
Am I one person today and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
And before myself a contemptible woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army
fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?”
I want to focus in on the last line of the stanza above, Bonhoeffer, in the midst of his identity crises, begins to refocus his thoughts and I believe sees a light in darkness, a beacon of hope in the storm of despair.
What if I told you that you are already known for the very ways you long for those in this world to know you? You were established, fixed in His memories, before ever born. This person has searched you, sees the real you, and examines your heart attitudes. He knows every secret hidden, every thought even the very number of hairs on your head. He knew you before you were born and knows your true intent and heart. He is God and our craving to be known is anchored in him! We desire intimate relationships because they are created in us so we in turn would search and find our identity in Him.
He sent His Son Jesus to die on a cross for our sins! His victory won for our souls long ago. Bonhoeffer recognizes the disorder of placing our identity in the patterns of the world. When we continue seeking our validity in the world’s standards, we become beaten and worn. However, when we shift our focus and seek who we are in Christ and what was done for us, our God-sized holes begin to fill with His love and mercy and grace. There is no reason to continue striving! Thank God for sending Jesus to die that we can be considered good enough in the grander scheme of things. All we need is ask Him into our hearts and allow Him to change us from the inside out! You are His and He is where your true identity lies. As Bonhoeffer closes his poem he too determines that he is known fully by God.
“Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine!”