The Crisis and The Cross
Who am I? This is the question that has fuelled a fire of many kinds for many people for almost as long as there have been people to ask it.
The thing is, the root of this question isn’t so much in discovery as it is in doubt. There was a time when we knew who we were because we believed the God that said so. No longer living in The Garden comes with its challenges, the biggest among these being answering the question ‘Who am I?’
So, here is some of what I found when I went looking for my answer.
My Journey into actively looking for who I am only really started at the age of 17.
I was out of options, I had low self-esteem and poor health.
I wasn’t so much looking for something, as running away from something else.
I had just figured out I could sing and, pairing that nicely with the 4 chords I already knew on guitar, I decided I was a singer/songwriter. A change of scenery and some people that didn’t know anything about me was all I needed to solidify this new truth — so I moved over to my Dad’s house and just like that I had myself a ‘Thing’. The only problem with this was, I hadn’t yet figured out how to combine my 4 chords with my voice in order to create a song — but who needed to know that?
Looking back from now to then I can see what I would now call ‘Divine Appointments’.
These are God driven moments in time that collide you with people that you did not know you needed to meet, but that He could not let you live without having met. My first real recollection of this was being asked by some now dear friends, after having started to work for them, about what I did and who I was. Great, this was the perfect time to exercise my new truth about the musician and singer I now was (they don’t need to know that it’s only barely news to me too). God being God, however, had decided to call me on this truth as they then proceeded to get very excited and asked me to help form a band for a meeting they were very passionate about starting.
Whoops, now I’m in a band that hopefully plays everything in G Major.
I had been to Church my entire life, but I had never really understood its’ function outside of a social gathering. The meeting (that was later named ‘The Exchange’) brought with it some of the best friends I’ll ever have and became a place where I encountered Worship and was even mentored into leading it. Music had its’ limits as a ’Thing’ as something to be defined by — but what I never tired of was Worshipping with Music.
Thus started my new ‘Thing’.
I was a Worship Leader. I led at meetings, house group gathering, Worship nights and pretty much anywhere that would let me. There was no hand I wouldn’t see raised nor knee not bent — there was nowhere that I couldn’t lead Worship.
Now although this feels like a suitable end to the search for ‘Who Am I?’, I realised a little while after that it was still but a humble beginning.
A few years on into ‘The Exchange’ I decided to go with a friend to France to be a leader at a Bilingual Camp for teenagers. I had just finished school and I was free to do whatever I wanted to with my time, so why not go to a country where I don’t speak the language — after all it’s just 2 weeks.
This camp became the gateway for a year-long journey in France that would undo all of my security and reduce me to being completely co-dependent once more.
I lost the ability to communicate linguistically, lost the friends and family that were once at arms reach and most paramountly I lost my purpose, my ‘Thing’.
I couldn’t lead anyone in Worship other than myself; what use was I without that?
After I had come to terms with the fact that I was in France for the long haul — with no one to blame but myself — I spent my days mostly doing building work on the 300-year-old house that occupied the grounds.
Outside of this, more so in the beginning, I wasn’t really able to join in long conversations or any games being played in French, and with the limited internet, I found myself actually playing my guitar and writing songs.
This ‘Thing’ I had called into being was finally starting to become something I did and could do.
I remember thinking at the time that each song was better than the last: I couldn’t wait to show them to people!
Now I thank the Lord that there wasn’t anyone to show them to that would have understood what I’d actually written.
Safe to say, I’m a much better writer now.
At first, it was inadvertent, but by the end, I would go out of my way to take my guitar somewhere quiet and to spend time with God. I started to record the songs I was writing and began to covet the time I could have on my own with him — to write, to sing and to just do what I did best with Him.
Now, at the risk of writing a book, I will surmise my story here.
It took the better part of this year in France for me to realise the answer to the question, ‘Who am I?’
And the answer did not come in the form I expected it to, nor did it fulfil exactly what I thought it would.
In order to find yourself, you must first lose yourself — I chose to do this on an international level, as apparently, I am a living metaphor.
I went looking for an answer that I thought was about me — but what I found was an answer that was looking for me.
I’m not a function nor an asset to be had, I’m not what I do and I need in fact not be able to do anything in order to be defined. The reason that God gave His Son so that we may live was because He had never called us to be our own defining factor; He had never called us to answer the question of our own identity.
Our Identity, like our Salvation, is defined by Him and what he has done.
It has taken me a long time to realise this, but the answer to the question ‘Who am I?’ is simply this: I am His.
Author: Joel Clements