“Why am I here?”
The idea of purpose haunts many people, myself included from time to time. We have been sold the idea that our purpose on this planet is to consume goods to make ourselves happy and further our economies, but many are finding this purpose to be shallow and unsatisfying. Generations are embarking on a spiritual journey to find a better purpose. But perhaps we are missing a more basic question: “Who am I?”
Identity and purpose are intimately linked. Runners run. Poets write poetry. Bankers handle money. When we label ourselves with an identity, we are able to move forward with a purpose. To many, the search for identity is like shopping for clothes: we try on a number of labels until we find one that we like. We become writers until we realize that we don’t like writing. We become outdoor enthusiasts until our allergies force us indoors. The pattern continues until we find a passion that sticks, and we keep that label. And we pray that we don’t get bored. Yet, maybe there is another, more full sense of identity that goes beyond our daily activities, one that digs deeper than what we do.
For those on a faith journey, there is another question that must be addressed as we try to figure out who we are: “Who is God?” Who is this entity that created me? This question is impossible to answer in full, and difficult to answer at all. Most religions agree that “God” is either infinite, or so beyond our comprehension that it is impossible for us to understand Him in His completeness. The finite trying to capture the infinite seems like an exercise in futility, but is perhaps the most important endeavor we can undertake.
For my own journey, the questions of “Who am I?” and “Who is God?” have been inseparable since the start. The more I understood about God, by studying Scripture and speaking with others on a similar journey, the more I learned about who I am. In turn, the more I understood about who I was, my own strengths and weaknesses, lead to a greater understanding of who God is. The quest for my identity and that of my God are two sides of the same coin.
I wonder, is the big idea of this world to seek self-actualization, the answer to “Who am I?” or is it to understand the infinite, “Who is God?” Perhaps it is both. Perhaps it is impossible to answer one without addressing the other. If our destiny, purpose, and identity are tied in with our deity, then maybe we need to spend our entire lives reexamining our answers to these two questions. Perhaps.
Yet this is not always easy, and there are pitfalls we tend to fall into. The easiest trap is to create a God in our own image. Genesis tells us that God created humanity in His image, but many of us have turned that around. We create a God that fits in with what we know about ourselves and the our understanding of the world. Artists can read through the Bible and see that God is an artist. PETA activists can look at God’s work in nature and know that God is an animal-rights activist. Administrators can see, throughout history, that God is the ultimate CEO of creation. All of these can be true, but they fall terribly short of who God is. God is love, but God is also wrathful. Too few wrestle with the apparent contradictions in God’s character, leaving themselves with a half-understood deity that does not hold against pressure from other seekers.
Another terrifying question that may confront us as we honestly seek our identity is “What if I’m not the hero?” What if it’s not all about me? This was the hardest part of my journey. I could understand my sin, the brokenness of the world, and the goodness of God. But I could not accept that I was not the hero of my story; that I could not pull myself out of the hole of my self-inflicted pain to become righteous. I could work harder to become a better person, but without divine help, I could not earn my salvation. This is the unique message of Christianity. Though the ethics and morality of many religions are similar, if not the same, Christianity alone teaches that Jesus Christ is the hero of the story. He paid the price for my sin, and nothing I can do can add to that. Its humbling, to say the least.
What about you? Are you the hero of your story? Have you delved into the heart of who you are and why you’re here? Perhaps it is time to look into your life and see if there is something more than you currently life for. For me, I found Christ, a God-man that is the centre of my identity and purpose. What is yours?