Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. John 13:3-5
Since we’ve already hit on the feet thing together (Day 35, I think), the beginning of this is what stands out for me. John gives us insight into Jesus’ heart and/or state of mind, and it sounds like one of peace, balance, truth, and assurance. Jesus knew exactly who he was. Some of us like to think we do, or even aggressively assert that we do. It’s a matter of independence, self-esteem, and value, to claim to be centered in ourselves, and sure of our own identity, and clear about our life objectives. We CERTAINLY don’t want someone else telling us who we are, or chipping away at our confidence by hinting that we’re immature, or underdeveloped, or uncertain about our own identities. When someone does that, the famous phrase pops up: “YOU don’t know ME!” Most of us, to avoid that moment, like for others to look at us and see someone who is collected, focused, and has a good grip on life. To be sure someone else doesn’t do it for us, many of us try to define ourselves as clearly as we can.
We create personas, and wear masks. We join an existing culture/category of people that we see around us, or we try to originate a new one. We make intentional and sometimes ridiculously over-thought plans about the clothes/accessories we will wear, the way our hair will look, the type of possessions people see (home, car, etc.), how our children will act (and pets), the kind of language (or accent) we will use, how we will win or lose at things, if and where and how and with whom we worship, and beyond. Why all of that? Almost always, I think, to convince ourselves about the person that we are, and to convince others, and hoping to be convinced by others that’s exactly who we are. As people of faith, I’d say the problem is that all of that is self-defined. And I don’t know about you, but my ideas/opinions can be fleeting, fickle, and motivated by ever-changing factors. Which means this persona is always subject to small or even fundamental changes, all the time, as my mood sees fit.
The upside to that is that we can reinvent ourselves, sure; we’re not bound to one look or perspective. I remember in middle school what it was for a kid to jump from grunge to preppy to gothic to band-nerd, etc., and even though that wasn’t easy back then (nor as an adult), it’s possible. We can search for ourselves. But, again, if the only voices in that conversation are our own and that of our surrounding culture, then I can see why it seems scarce to me today to meet someone who seems firmly rooted in who they are. TRULY scarce. It looks like an age when there is nearly complete freedom to choose or be whomever/whatever we want (Lady Gaga, por ejemplo), even to a fault.
That means we are also absolutely free to turn the direction of our personas, and that great drama we put on with ourselves — all the costumes, and play language, and acting the part — we can turn all of that over to GOD. Insofar as God will always leave the onus of our choices with US, having endowed us so strongly with freedom to choose, we can try to constantly, tirelessly, turn to God’s heart in every situation, with every part of ourselves. I’m not good at that, nor do I have any quick tips or easy steps to do it. But I know that Scripture promises we have that chance, and that God desires it more than most anything. We can shape ourselves at the leading and counsel of One voice, even the Holy Spirit of God within and around us.
What would the result be? Well, we wouldn’t be the next Messiahs, but certainly we could be more akin to Christ Jesus, the Jesus whom Jesus tells us about. Who knew deeply who he was, where he was from, and where he was going, completely anchored in God and God’s kingdom. If you’ve known someone who is even a little bit like that, then you’ve felt the power of their presence and person. Indeed, we are persons, not personas. The times that I’ve felt nearest to my true self, nearest to God’s heart, I think I’ve tasted a hint of the kind of courage, peace, true freedom, confidence, and personal value that must have powered Jesus on his path to death and life again. And what a thing it is. My struggle since then has been to try so hard to repeat those feelings, and get back to that place of centeredness with God, that I sometimes fail to live here and now where God is waiting on me. I try to create a self-made persona of that God-centered person I’ve been before, and it falls apart.
So maybe, today, you and I can just stop constructing ourselves at all, and stop putting on the frills and trappings of this temporary “me,” and even stop trying terribly hard to preserve the person we were with God a moment ago. Today, God knows you, in every single way. IN EVERY WAY. And God knows how/where YOU, even you alone, can be effective for the sake of Goodness, and Love, and God’s kingdom. Ask God for help, and be vigilant with LISTENING today.