It’s the big question of this (and maybe every) age. Who am I, really? Is there a core essence, a slice of me-ness that marks me out from everyone else? If so, am I born with it; or is it something I have to seek out and discover? What I if don’t like what’s there? Can I learn to be something different?
One question leads to another and another after that. When will it happen, this self-discovery? When I meet someone special and fall in love? If I leave home or start a family? Where does the new me live? Buried somewhere in the past? Or waiting for me to come and find her — on a tropical island or a gap year, in an illicit affair or a move to the countryside?
When I meet myself for the first time, how will I know? Should I expect a sudden flash of illumination, like the flick of a switch? ‘There I am; all those years I never knew, but suddenly I see.’ Or is it a gradual dawning, like growing into school uniform? ‘This is who I am. Finally, I fit.’
It’s tiring, hunting for yourself. And it doesn’t leave room for much of anything else. It requires absolute dedication. Cull the family and friends who take up too much time. Tell your partner, ‘there are depths to me you’ll never understand.’ Close the door on tear-stained children, ‘You’re asking too much. Before I can love you, I have to love myself… if I can only find her.’
Scan the magazine headlines. ‘How to be seductive, funny, successful, wise. How to cultivate new friends. New start, new you.’ What if there is a new you already; but she’s knackered and stained with ketchup? Maybe you took a wrong turning. Maybe there’s been some terrible mix up. Maybe you’ve lost yourself and will miss out forever.
The gospel says, NO.
You’re not lost. You’re not forgotten. You’re not missing out. Life is not happening somewhere else whilst you grind along in your little rut.
Self-discovery is not around the corner – and neither is the life you should be having. It’s here, already. It flows through you – not as a reservoir, but as a river. Life is given to you that you might give it away. So forget ‘if only.’ If only I…make a plan, cut away the toxic relationships, seize the moment. ‘If only’ never existed. But it can take away the life you’ve got.
Life came to you – and you didn’t need to change jobs or hairstyle or partner or diet. You didn’t have to muster your courage or climb, even an inch. It seized you; and now you have it. In the traffic-logged commute and in the dirty nappies. In the empty home you never wanted and the demands you often long to escape. Right here, right now.
Life, real life, is messy and chaotic. It’s meant to be USED — spilled out, like water on thirsty ground. The elderly parent, the difficult boss, the bawling toddler — they are not holding you back from your potential and they’re not a distraction. This IS life – already – and it’s not a mistake.
Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. (1 Cor. 7:17)
Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. (Matt. 10:39)