This is the first in a series of questions to contemplate as we prepare for some mission planning
Who am I?
If someone asks us, who are you? One common response is to respond with our name. I am Trevor Jennings. Then if they prod a bit more, we might say I am a Uniting Church minister or I am a forklift driver, or I am a mother or I am a daughter, or I am Australian, or I am Tongan, or I am from Clemton Park.
We see our identity tied to work, relationships, education, religion, sexuality, ethnicity etc. If we think someone is judging us in some way or they stay something condescending about us that hurts, we may say to ourselves, they don’t know me, they don’t know who I really am.
Sometimes we like to tell others, I am an introvert, or I am an extrovert, to explain ourselves and our behaviour, or we may find comfort in a psychological diagnosis.
From our birth we forge our identity from the world around us and our ideas of ourselves are shaped by our experiences and education, by those who raise and influence us, and increasingly through social media etc. These are all external environmental factors in our identity formation and of course there is a continuous internal dialogue processing it all.
When we are not happy with who we are or who we think we have become, we often seek help. Sometimes the help we seek can be far from helpful, for example if we try to become someone else through drugs or alcohol. Sometimes we might seek help through counselling to understand ourselves or to change our thinking about ourselves or just to find ourselves.
But do we ever know who we really are? What is our true self?
Likewise, when it comes to mission planning in the church and we ask the question, who are we; we tend to answer with a set of beliefs – we are the body of Christ, we are followers of Jesus, we are the Uniting Church, we are a bible believing church, we are inclusive, we are a welcoming congregation etc. Is what we say about ourselves and what we say we believe, really who we are?
Could asking ourselves, who am I, be a deeply spiritual question, a spiritual search in itself? Richard Rohr says, for Christians who have gone into their own depths they have uncovered an indwelling presence -a deep loving ‘yes’, God immanent, the Holy Spirit within, our deepest truest self, God the very ground of our being’. He says some mystics have described this presence as “closer to me than I am to myself” or “more me than I am myself” or as Thomas Merton called it -the true self.
Contemplate the following –
‘this presence is more me than I am myself’.
In his book ‘Beauty’, John O’Donohue says that faith is both an attraction to the divine and a response to God’s beauty and that ‘Love changes the way we see ourselves and others’ - ‘love turns up the hidden light within a person’s life’ and that ‘the beauty of God increases and deepens our own beauty.
Why are the questions ‘Who am I?’ and ‘Who are we?’ so important to any attempt in making a mission plan? How may this question shape what we do and how we do it?
Minister of Campsie Earlwood Clemton Park Uniting Church Congregation