Questions of Identity
written by Rev Gary Heard

Much of our religious search and spiritual quest is framed around a small number of questions: what is God like? Why am I here? How should I live? Similarly we go to a regular set of wells in search of answers: to scripture, tradition, religious writers and thinkers, prayer, creation, and reflection. For many of us, this quest becomes like an annual holiday pilgrimage: to the same place year after year, exploring the same ground. There is little fresh to explore, so we let our minds unwind. Helpful, and minimally refreshing, but ultimately stagnating. Are there new places to explore… new questions to ask… new thinkers to engage with… new challenges to live?

My own journey has been pushed in a new direction over recent weeks as I have reflected on the question: “What does it mean to be human?” Answers from the clinical medical field, from psychologists, theologians and ethicists, set in the context of the horrific scenes in the wake of the tsunami, have taken my spiritual understanding in new directions, placing it under a different microscope, as I have considered the implications for my own way of life: what does it mean for me to be fully human?

Our sense of identity and purpose finds its commonality in our human nature. Yet I have been challenged to consider whether we have a single human nature, and what form that takes. If I am to encourage a full human expression, even as Jesus was fully human, what does that mean? How does that challenge me to engage with others, and with the challenges of our world?

The christian church constantly wages battle against the temptation to de-humanise faith. The dualist approach which has dominated modernity suggests that to be truly spiritual is to move away from the physical, to set that which is human against that which is divine. Yet in the birth of Christ, God clearly demonstrates that it is possibly to be both fully human and fully divine.

Knowing who I am and who it is that I am becoming is an integral component of our spiritual journey, a question which has challenged me both personally and communally over recent days.

And so I pray that we will become more fully human, that God might be alive more fully in and through us.

January 30, 2005
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