Who Am I?

I have been thinking a lot about how you find out who you are this week. One of my favorite authors, Madeleine L’Engle, said that we are the sum of all our ages. The daughter and I have discussed that we are the sum of all our experiences. Do we ever find out who we really are? How do we really know? The daughter-in-law posted this on the family website. While it was fun to see what she came up with, if you saw my grandsons in person, you would say, I think, that Tony is the one who looks like her and RJ looks like his daddy. Knowing who you look like just covers your physical characteristics, though. What about who you are inside? Does it help to know about those things?

The seniors at school are writing their senior memory books, and their first chapter is entitled, “Who Am I?” I work with mostly boys, and in typical boy style, they tell me they don’t have anything to say. However, once you get them talking, you really do find out a lot. One of my students talked openly about his ADHD and how weird it was for him to learn. He said most people don’t understand that he has to fidget to take things in. I was impressed that he wanted to include that in his entry; when I told him that, he responded that his ADHD is a big part of who he is. True. I hope he keeps his memory book so that if a child in the next generation of his family has ADHD, he might be comforted or instructed by the story of one of his “people.”

I have actually been thinking about my roots since Christmas. We get together with my niece and nephew then. They really don’t know a lot about our side of the family and they seem hungry for the knowledge. I thought I knew a lot, but my dad was in the mood to share at Christmas and I learned even more. See, I am over six feet tall, but my younger sister is 5’1″ and the older one was 5’4″. My parents aren’t really tall, so I sort of felt out of place growing up. I assumed my height came from my mother’s family. I thought her dad was over six foot, but my father said he wasn’t. This Christmas he showed me a picture of my grandmother’s brother who, he said, was 6’2″ or 6’3,” a really tall man for his time. It made me feel better to know that my “tall” genes came to me from both sides of my family.

Then, in the Beth Moore Bible study that I am doing, Beth talked about the spiritual heritage that you got from your great-grandparents. My greats were all gone by the time I was born. I have heard my dad talk about his mother’s parents, but not so much about his dad’s. So I asked, and this is what he said:

Grandpa and Grandma D. were both Methodists, though he was a member of Mt. Zion Methodist Church and she was a member of Mt. Sharon Methodist Church. I don’t know for sure, but I think the reason for the division was the fact that he smoked a pipe, something she didn’t approve of. They were both firm believers that the the Bible is the inspired, infallible Word of God and that Jesus is our Savior. They always lived by Christian principles and insisted that others should do so.

Grandma and Grandpa G. were also believers, but I don’t know about their church membership. Both were good examples of Christian behavior, and they always tried to live according to the rules given in the Bible. I will ask June [an aunt who is just a few years older than my dad] about their church membership.

I know that God doesn’t have grandchildren, that we all have to come to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, but I am happy to know that my great-grandparents were believers. I know from talking to my dad that he was at his maternal grandfather’s side at his death, and the way that grandpa passed on to heaven, in addition to the way he lived his life, really witnessed to my dad.

My younger sister would disagree with me, but I really think it helps to know your people. When I read the Bible, it helps me to know that the Rebekah of the Old Testament made mistakes just like I do. God told her that her oldest child would serve the younger but, just like I have been known to do on occasion, she tried to get things to happen in her own time. While I am sure that she reaped the consequences of her actions, I am equally sure that, since the inspired authors of Scripture included her story in the Bible, God loved her anyway. Her story inspires me with hope. By its telling I know my people. By its telling I know my Father.

I am sure I won’t know who I am truly meant to be until I get to heaven, but as I travel along, it helps me to know the stories of those who have gone before me. By the time I get to heaven, maybe my faith will again be as pure as it was when I got my tonsils out. I was five, and the church newsletter from that time tells that I prayed with another child who was in the hospital with me. I don’t remember the incident, but I wonder if I would have had such a faith at that age if my “greats” and those that came after had not taken the care to instruct me in the Scriptures.

I can’t wait to get to heaven. But in the meantime, I am grateful for the glimpses I get of the person I am meant to be, and I am thankful for the foundation my “people” laid before me.

Hebrews 11:13-16

13All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth.

14People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own.

15If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return.

16Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.



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January 2008
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