Who am I?
I don’t mean that rhetorically. I’m serious. Who am I?
Sometimes, I just don’t know.
Pastor and author Timothy Keller managed to shove that question in my face last night. Thanks Tim.
My crew is all out of town right now. Keli and her boyfriend Jimmy have taken a road trip to Jimmy’s mom’s house for his birthday. The other three–Tim, Mark and Bethany–are all on a trip to Seattle with their grandparents. They’ve been gone almost two weeks. Good grief, I miss them.
Their being gone has changed things up around here a bit. For one thing…my house is a lot cleaner than normal. The laundry is all caught up. It’s given me a chance to attend via online this years The Gospel Coalition National Women’s Conference (which is where I heard Tim Keller speak last night on Nehemiah), and it’s given me a bit of a taste of “empty nest” syndrome.
And I don’t much like it. And it has caused me to ask myself “Who am I?”
Last night, Keller opened up God’s word and taught from Nehemiah 3 and 4. I don’t know if you’ve ever read Nehemiah 3 (I had, but only in one of my many attempts to “read the Bible through in a year”–not in any real study). Let me give you a spoiler—there’s not much there. In fact, I’ll put a sample of it here for you (you can skim it if you want to–I did.):
6 Joiada the son of Paseah and Meshullam the son of Besodeiah repaired the Gate of Yeshanah.[c] They laid its beams and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars. 7 And next to them repaired Melatiah the Gibeonite and Jadon the Meronothite, the men of Gibeon and of Mizpah, the seat of the governor of the province Beyond the River. 8 Next to them Uzziel the son of Harhaiah, goldsmiths, repaired. Next to him Hananiah, one of the perfumers, repaired, and they restored Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall. 9 Next to them Rephaiah the son of Hur, ruler of half the district of[d] Jerusalem, repaired. 10 Next to them Jedaiah the son of Harumaph repaired opposite his house. And next to him Hattush the son of Hashabneiah repaired. 11 Malchijah the son of Harim and Hasshub the son of Pahath-moab repaired another section and the Tower of the Ovens. 12 Next to him Shallum the son of Hallohesh, ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, repaired, he and his daughters.
Ok, so what do you see—besides a lot of incredibly difficult-to-pronounce names? (Which, much to my delight, Keller did trip up on a couple of them). At first glance, I didn’t see much really. And I started to feel sorry for the guy. Here’s this big conference, and he’s been assigned Chapter 3 in Nehemiah…..by the way, the whole chapter carries on like this.
But then Keller pointed something out that I didn’t see at first. He pointed out the “Next-to’s”.
You see, throughout this chapter, the chronicler records who is repairing the wall. Who is working next to who (or whom?) And the list is lengthy. But what is even more remarkable than the obvious fact that everyone worked together, is that everyone worked together across all stratospheres of ethnicity, class, job, social status, and gender (there is record of two daughters working on the wall).
Keller’s point? We are all ministers. He pointed out that Paul says this over and over and over again. We need all hands and gifts on deck. No one gets an out. Not you. Not me.
That was a great point–and something worth remembering, but then he said something that struck my soul. That I’ve had to chew on today. He said this:
When you become a Christian, your experience of grace goes to the utter bottom of who you are.
And so I got to thinking. Does it? Does it really? And do I believe that to be truth?
Because, honestly, it’s hard for me to imagine a grace so big, so powerful, so forgiving, so loving that it would reach the inner depths of who I am. The good, the bad and the really ugly. That it would reach beneath the fact that I am a single mom, a co-worker, a friend. That I am an ex-pastor’s wife, that I was a non-believer, was a victim, was an alcoholic, was a mess. That I am full of pride and selfishness. That grace would reach beneath all of those things, and make me who I am first and foremost today, which is a child of God’s.
But if I believe that scripture is truth, it’s right there. In John 1:16: 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.
Grace. Grace upon grace.
So, I had to ask myself, who am I? Who are you?
I want to remember that I am many things, but most importantly and very firstly, I want to remember that I am a follower of Christ. That has to cover all of who I am in this world. My parenting. My working. My friendships. My place in ministry. My place in church. My writing. All of it. And because of His grace, I can rest assured that that very grace goes to the utter depths of who I am. Even when I don’t sense it or act like it. Because from my Jesus’ fullness, I have received grace upon grace.