Who am I really?
Who am I apart from my achievements (or failures) and the roles that I play in life?
Both questions invite us to ponder our true identity.
I remember the first time I sat with them during a time of silent reflection.
If I’m being honest with you, my initial answers were “I don’t know” and “Not much.”
Of course, my mind quickly chimed in with a better answer: I am a person deeply loved by God.
In Eph 3:18–19, Paul offered this prayer for his readers: “I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Most of us know about God’s love in our minds. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed that there is a difference between knowing about God’s love for us and knowing and feeling God’s love in the fullness of our humanity. Paul seems to be asking God to bridge this gap in the lives of the Ephesians.
How can we integrate this deeper knowledge of our true self into a way of life that manifests the reality of God’s love in us and for the world? How can we implant this truth in our inner core so that we slowly live a little more each day as the person God created us to be?
For me, I’ve found three elements that help me to take baby steps toward surrendering more to the truth of God’s love for us in Christ and living it out daily with the help of the Holy Spirit: Holiness, Mission, and Community. Here is how I integrate these three elements into a way of life that amplifies and nourishes the person God created us to be.
Growth in Connection with God (Holiness)
The first element is holiness. Christianity is both caught and taught. It is not merely a set of right beliefs. It is about learning to believe and live the way of Jesus Christ. Practically, this way of life involves crafting and honoring a liturgy for daily living. Some call this creating a “rule of life.” Others may prefer terms like “spiritual rhythms,” “spiritual exercises,” or “healthy habits.” Such commitments have been at the core of Methodism (hence the name) from the beginning of the Holy Club.
You will need to find the right recipe that fuels and nourishes you, but I’d encourage you to think in terms of four categories:
- Sabbath: In Gen 1:1–2:3 God embedded rest from work into the fabric of creation a day. What day will be your weekly sabbath?
- Caring for the Body Temple: Part of growth in God’s love is learning to nurture the physical body. The wise among us know that we cannot separate the spiritual part of us from our physical body. Thus, sleep, diet, and exercise are critical for living out our true identity. Do you get adequate sleep (most of us need at least seven hours)? Does the food you consume nourish and strengthen your body for the long game of life? Are you moving and stretching your body regularly as your age and circumstances allow?
- Means of Grace: Wesley emphasized three ordinary channels for growth in grace: Scripture, Prayer, and Lord’s Supper. What are your practices and habits regarding each of these?
- Contemplative Practices: Centering Prayer, Prayer of Examen, Welcoming Prayer, Lectio Divina. I’ve found contemplative spirituality to be deeply transformational over the last decade. If you are unfamiliar with these categories, I’d invite you to look these up and experiment with one or two practices this year. Personally, I practice centering prayer and prayer of examen daily. Trust me: contemplative practices will deepen your experience of all of the above categories.
A rule of life becomes life-giving when it moves from being practices that you should do to ones that you must do.
Mission: Love for Neighbor
The second element in amplifying and nurturing our identity in Christ is accepting our giftedness and calling and using it for the glory of God. True vocation flows out of our identity as persons loved by God. We love others because God in Christ loved us first. We are blessed to be blessings. Our vocation is not a mere role. It is the sharing with others the love that we’ve experienced.
Who is your mission? What does it look like to bless and serve those around you with the love of God?
The third element is rooting yourself in an intentional community that supports you in your growth as a person loved by God. At its foundational level, this involves participating in a community of faith, but most usually find a smaller group within the whole to be more helpful. Gather people around you who are fully committed to the same journey and connect with them for mutual support and accountability. If you are a pastor, this deeper community will not always involve persons whom you are serving in ministry. Also, as a part of your communion of saints, you can add authors and teachers whom you only know through their works.
Who is your community? Who do you have in your life to support you in your growth into your true identity of a person loved by God?
May you continue to grow in holiness, mission, and community as you live and serve authentically as a soul loved by God.