Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Suffering Refines Our Identity

… this is what happens to most everyone who encounters an event like cancer and then tries to figure out what life looks like afterward. Such circumstances are painful for a lot of reasons, but one of the primary ones is because they are stripping—they strip us of money, power, prestige, health, or a loved one. And they change our lives, forcing us to ask the difficult questions of personal identity. Who are you now that you’re not rich anymore? Who are you now that you don’t work at your former job anymore? Who are you now that you can’t exercise like you used to because of your illness? Who are you now that you have lost someone close to you? Who are you? And who am I? Pain strips us of the comfortable self-designations that we so desperately cling to. Pain makes us poor. I was impoverished in my identity.

The question of identity can really only be answered in a moment of crisis. In other words, it can only be answered when something attached to our core is taken out of our control: health, achievements, career, family life, and so forth. Who are you when those things are altered or threatened? Who would the rich, young ruler be if he sold his possessions? He would not be rich or a ruler; he would have nothing external left to define himself. He would be poor. A nobody. That poverty opens the door for Jesus to say, “Let me tell you who you really are.”
- Michael Kelley, Wednesdays Were Pretty Normal

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