Updated: Dec 23, 2021
“Now with God’s help, I shall become myself.” — Søren Kierkegaard
When you come into this life, the world starts making demands on you, almost right from the beginning. There are rules you are required follow, and roles you are required to play, imposed on you by whatever society into which you happen to be born. Some of these rules and roles are essential to basic human thriving. The Golden Rule, for example. Or the commandments: Do not kill. Do not steal. These function as a foundational communal alliance. They define the “rules of engagement” for our shared life together. It’s made clear early on that you must follow these rules if you want to be a part of the community. If you break them, you will be shunned. You’ll become an outcast. You might even be put in prison, or killed.
The roles you are required to play function in much the same manner. For you to be accepted and approved by the society, there are particular labels you must wear, and specific roles you must play, very much like an actor on the stage. Again, some of these are essential to healthy human identity and community: Father. Mother. Brother. Sister. Son. Daughter. Friend. Lover. Stranger. These roles may be put on us by our society, but they are also an intrinsic part of who we are as human beings.
But, as we come into young adulthood, we begin to recognize that many of the rules and roles society puts on us are entirely arbitrary, and often nonsensical. Some are even cruel and abusive. Here are just a few examples:
Why do women have to paint their faces, while men do not? Why do men have to suppress their emotions, while women do not? Why is one man considered less valuable than another simply because he has less money? Why does skin tone have anything at all to do with someone’s status? Why are you required to wear these types of clothes but not those? To talk in this way but not that way? To do this job but not that one? To love this person but not that one? To drive this kind of car but not that one? To live in this neighborhood but not that one?
Civilized society is a good thing—very good, in fact. We humans don’t do well alone. We crave community with others, and need it for our own well-being. So having established rules and roles we each must follow in order to live well together makes sense. But the moment any of these rules or roles reach beyond the necessities required for the flourishing of the human heart in authentic community with others, and venture into the realms of control and prejudice, they become toxic. They infect the society and the people in it with a kind of small-minded blindness. Members of the society who benefit from these toxic constraints not only fail to see them for the chains they are; they eagerly enforce them, shifting their intention from mutual flourishing to social control, determined to defend even the most heinous of these societal rules and roles as sacred and holy and unimpeachable.
In such a confusing mix of controlling forces and conflicting perspectives, how can you have any hope of discovering your true self—who you really are, what you’re really like, and what you really want?
Thankfully, there’s another voice present and active in this complex social drama of becoming—one that carries more insight and authority than all the others combined. It is the voice of Spirit, the voice of God, who travels with you through all of your days, ever present, always working to draw you toward the light of truth concerning who you really are and what you’re meant to be.
Without God’s guiding presence to show us this truth, the best we can do is spend our days guessing at who and what we are. We look to lesser guides—our parents, our peers, our particular tribe or subgroup within the larger culture—to give us rules to follow and roles to play, to tell us who we are, and we fall in line like good little soldiers, rarely even questioning the veracity of the masks we put on.
It’s only God who can save us from this quagmire of masks and social games. God knows you—intimately. After all, He drew up the blueprints. He built you, literally knit you together in your mother’s womb. You are a designer human—bespoke, one of a kind. He knows everything about you. Not just how you’ve struggled or who you’ve tried to be up to now, but who you are meant to be. He knows the why behind your making. He knows what you’re for.
To be who you really are, you must let go of everything you were never meant to be. But you can’t do this by yourself. You don’t have anywhere near enough intel on your true self to pull that off. My God, you’ve never even seen your own face! How, then, are you supposed to think you can know the immense complexity of who and what you really are? And you can’t trust society to tell you; we’ve already established that. Your parents, if they are good parents, can help a little. Or friends, if they’re especially insightful. But even the most well-meaning loved ones are mostly clueless when it comes to the question of who you’re meant to be.
No. It’s God. It’s got to be God. You and God.
It works like this:
You bring God everything. Everything you think you are. Everything you think you’re not. Everything you wish you were. Everything you wish you weren’t. Anything you want to be, and everything you fear you will never be. You lay it all before God like cards on the table. Then you take the whole lot and push it over to His side. You give Him ownership over everything. You let it all go. Then you look Him straight in the face, and you say, as simply and seriously as you’ve ever said anything in your life:
“Tell me the truth about me.”
By the time you’ve uttered the final word, you will have already stepped into an entirely new kind of becoming.