This is who I say I am:
Husband to a faithful wife; father to two rowdy, rambunctious daughters; hopeful future grandfather; brother, son, uncle, nephew, cousin and in-law; slow learner; under-achiever; academic disappointment; loyal friend; average driver; above-average in trivia knowledge; below average in common sense; strong sense of humor, but can be “an acquired taste;” abject do-it-yourself failure; sometimes a hypocrite; terrible memory for names; can be awkward in social settings; should be friendlier; should be kinder; should have more hair; sometimes can’t seem to get the simplest things right; doesn’t pray enough, read the Bible enough or talk to people about Jesus enough; will never be good enough.
Some of these things are true and some are not. Some of them are a mixture of truth and lies—lies from myself, from other people or from the enemy that I’ve come to believe about myself.
Author and philosopher William James wrote, “Whenever two people meet, there are really six people present. There is each man as he sees himself, each man as the other person sees him and each man as he really is.”
So, how do I know who I really am?
When I ask, “Who do I say I am?” I am asking the wrong question. The actual question I should be asking is, “Who does God say I am?”
God says I am made in His image. “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27).
God says He knew me intimately from the moment of conception. “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13).
God says I am His child. “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are” (1 John 3:1).
God says He loved me long before I ever loved Him. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
God says His love for me is unconditional and His forgiveness absolute. In one of Jesus’ best-known parables, The Prodigal Son, He gives us a powerful illustration of our true identity. After squandering his inheritance and hitting rock bottom in the far country, the son makes the best decision of his life.
“‘So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” So they began to celebrate’” (Luke 15:20-24).
The son forgot who he was. His sin, selfishness and shortcomings became the primary lens through which he viewed himself. Lost in that haze of regret and self-loathing was the truth that superseded all others: He was still his father’s son, and he was still loved.
I sometimes see verse 20 as an image on a T-shirt. On the right is the outline of a young man trudging with shoulders slumped and head down. On the left is an older man sprinting, beard streaming behind him, arms pumping and knees flying up to his chest. Under it is the caption, “THE PRODIGAL SON 5K WALK/RUN: JUST COME HOME.”
So, who are you? The ultimate answer to that question is not found in your childhood, your portfolio, your job performance, your spouse’s approval, the way your children dote on you or don’t return your calls.
You are not who you say you are, and you are not who I say you are. You are who the Father says you are. You are His child, and you are loved.
Bill Womack has been a member of Southeast Christian Church since 1997.