In Search of an Identity
written by Rev Gary Heard

The challenge to find one’s identity today is complex. When I go to the bank I am known by an account number (or two!). In a doctor’s surgery I am tracked by a Medicare number and a patient number. The government knows me by a tax file number, a driver’s licence number, or an enrolment at the electoral office. I have four email addresses and have lived at four different addresses in the last four years. My spending patterns can be tracked through a combination of credit card numbers, or a Fly Buys registration. So many numbers. Impersonal.

Yet there are other numbers which provide a filter through which I am known: age, height, weight… we might even broaden it to colour of hair, state of health, or number of years/times married, number of children/siblings. Do these truly reveal my identity?

Then there is a record of some acts. Participation in sporting events. Graduation ceremonies. Teaching positions and pastoral positions in churches.
The roles I have filled: pastor, chaplain, teacher, coach, member of a committee.

The relationships which have shaped my life: marriage, children/parents, sports teams I have supported, community groups I have been part of…
Who I am is much more than the sum total of all these. In fact, each of these underlines what I hold in common with others – the categories by which I can be sorted with similars. Perhaps in a cumulative way, should anyone bother to collate them, they might reflect a reasonable picture of my life. But for a number of immeasurable realities.

When someone asks today, “Who are you?” we might find ourselves searching for these and other like categories to begin a response. Yet the intangibles are those which shape us most, those unique aspects. We find ourselves engaged in that same struggle to define ourselves and express who we are.

It is into this morass that God declares a perfect love for us: knowing us fully and loving us completely. The Psalmist expresses it eloquently: “My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my unformed substance…” (Ps 139:15-16).

It is God’s love for us  that encourages us to love who we are. It is his knowledge of us that encourages us to know ourselves and others. It is his gift to us that challenges us to give ourselves to others, having accepted who he has made us to be. God’s love encourages us to be a whole person, beyond the sum of statistics.

May 29, 2005
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