If People Really Knew Me...
By Scott Hughes
"Your evaluation of your soul, which is drawn from a world filled with people still terribly confused about the nature of their souls, is probably wrong."1
"Myth: If People Really Knew Me, They Wouldn't Like Me."2This myth, named by Daniel Bagby in his book Beyond the Myths: The Journey To Adulthood, was a belief I carried as an adolescent. Though often unsuccessfully, I tried to display self-confidence, while secretly harboring the belief that I was boring, selfish, and had a huge inferiority complex. I would be lying to say that these beliefs don't still creep up from time to time even now as an adult. My guess is that you probably hold similar secret beliefs about yourself. You, too, probably buy into similar myths that Bagby names: "There Is Only One Vocation God Has Equipped Me to Do," "Most of My Needs Are Unimportant," "My Friends Are Happier with Themselves than I Am."
In the face of these and similar myths, we discover the real power of religious identity: These myths are exposed by the Gospel story. As we explored briefly in the last couple of blogs (Negotiating Our Identity, Theological Statements of Identity ), our identity is God's beloved. Our identity centers on the belief that we have been created in the image of God and that we mirror that image out into God's world. This is at the heart of Jesus' command to love God and neighbor. As I hope you discovered in the exercise on writing a theological biography (link), the label that God gives us as "beloved" and the purpose we are given in our baptism serves to undermine all these cultural myths that serve only to deny us our real identity and purpose.
Catholic writer Henri Nouwen, in his book Life of the Beloved, writes about the self-rejection that is rampant in a culture that is saturated with idols of success and popularity. Conveying a deep truth that adults need to hear repeatedly, Nouwen declares, "Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the 'Beloved.' Being the Beloved expresses the core truth of our existence."3
When we allow God's story to shape our stories, we experience the power of an identity rooted in the Gospel gospel instead of in cultural myths. On the journey to maturity in the Christian life, we need reminders of "the core truth of our existence - beloved of God"- when we are tempted by voices that tell us otherwise. For me, worship is the primary place where I am reminded, weekly (and I could use it daily), of Whose I am and to the life that I am called.
Reflection Questions for Individuals:
- How do you experience reminders of your identity and purpose?
- Who encourages you as "beloved of God"? Who are the people, relationships, or activities (such as Facebook or television) that tempt you to buy into cultural myths about yourself?
Reflection Questions for Church Leaders:
- What elements in worship serve to ground individuals and the community's identity as God's beloved? Which serve to remind us of our baptismal call?
- How do we resource people in our community to encounter God's grace through daily and family practices?
What are you most grateful for? Take 5-10 minutes in silence. On a piece of paper, write down everything that comes to your mind that you are grateful for.