Practically every problem I have starts with one stupid question. Who am I? First problem, and perhaps one of the most concerning, is that I can’t hear or ask that question without silently answering myself with “Petey Pab, motha f…” I’ll leave the rest ot your imagination, and if you’re fired up about my almost using foul language, cool yourself by taking your shirt off, twisting it ’round yo’ head and spining it like a helicopter.
I’m not calling the question stupid because its not worth asking. On the contrary, it should probably be asked more often. The problems I was referring to before getting distracting by the rising up of North Carolina are those that come from the answers to the question or the consequences of avoiding the question. It’s stupid because I hate it, and the only way I can feel better about myself is degrading those things that cause problems. See, watch: Tax forms are stupid. Lay offs are stupid. Dirty diapers are dumb. Road work is stupid. Allergens are dumb. I could keep going, but I think you get it.
What’s the problem with “Who am I?” Ugh, everything comes down to identity. Should I finish my Masters? Well, is my identity rooted in my earning potential enough to risk the debt? Should I buy more plaid shirts? Well, is my identity in how I look? Should I take the lead on this new project at church? Well, am I doing it so that I have more power because I define myself by the amount of power I wield? Should I say what I’m about to say? Well, am I doing it to make myself feel better or look cooler or more important?
The problem with asking “Who am I?” is that it forces you to also ask, “What is important?”
And that bugger of a question makes you ask, “What is MOST important?” And, unlike my friend Kenny who loves making lists and definitive rankings, I don’t like ordering things. I prefer a word bank where they all float together ready for use in particular situations. Like, “Today, the Gypsy Queen food truck is of great importance, therefore, I base my identity around my culinary coolness,” and tomorrow, “My church is most important, so I base my identity in my roles at the church.” Sometimes, my family is most important. Sometimes, music is most important. My friends, my money, my leisure time, and any number of things beg me to define myself on their terms. I chase those definitions. I’m a Words of Affirmation Love Language person, remember. I want my identity known and popular, no matter what what grounds I base it. And in chasing those identities, I find myself a slave to them. I chase money, and sacrifice family. I chase status, and sacrifice friendship. I become addicted to what other people think of me, and I stop caring where that path could end. Just pat my back some more, dang it.
And I never feel satisfied. I. Want. More. And that is scary.
So, I try to define myself on my own terms; I’m a good person. I do good things. I define myself, and I inevitably discover I’m a self-righteous jackass. Usually, to my chagrin, this discovery is often made when someone I love says, “Matt, don’t be such a self-righteous jackass.”
So in my inability to define myself or match the definitions other people and other things push me toward, I’m found broken. And there is where I find peace in my faith. I allow God to define me, and the other things that I chased or other things I yoked myself to fade to the background. I can’t DO anything to make God love me more (or less). I can only accept that love. Accept the fact that despite being a jackass, He loved me first.
It’s pretty simple, really, but do I have it figured out? Am I always at peace? I’ll answer that like this, “Ha.”
I think the first step to figuring it out is to ask the question more often. Daily. Maybe even on a per-decision basis. What does this choice say about me? What am I hoping to get out of this? If I make this decision, am I more or less likely to walk away downcast like the rich young ruler? Am I more or less likely to miss out on an opportunity to grow in my faith like Martha? Am I doing this to get a nice satisfying push of the “me” button? The reality is that the more I figure it out, the more often I am at peace.
It’s time to be honest. I could have written this about the ethereal “you” or “some people,” but the truth is that this is my battle as much as anyone else’s. The addictions may be different. I’m addicted to power, and I struggle to use talents that make me a leader and also keep my ego in check. Some people define themselves by their romantic relationships and find themselves making harmful decisions by sleeping around rather than investing in relationships in a healthy way. Some people define themselves by their accomplishments and miss out on relationships looking for the next mountain to climb. Some people…blah blah. You know who you are, and I think the more you figure this out, the more you will be at peace.
I’m fighting some writers’ block, which is why this is a little rambling. Listen to THIS. Josh Burnett does a better job explaining.
But now this blog is over.