There are few things I like to do more than cooking for a group of people. I love having a group of random people over and serving a roast or even better a chimichurri sirloin barbecue. I love food, seeing people enjoying something I’ve made (most of the time) but the real joy is finding out about people. Hearing their stories of the great times and the worst times of their lives. Food is a great leveler of people; we can all spill gravy on our jeans.
At these events there is always a moment of introduction. We all know the formula. I am ____, I work as a _____, I am in a relationship with ______/ I am single at the moment, I live in ________. Other things happen through the evening. I drive a _________. All of these are answers to one simple question. Who are you?
I think that question is potentially one of the hardest to answer these days because the answer has been skewed by the culture we are immersed in. The set and expected response to a question of our identity is a list of things we do and own. At best we share our hobbies, rarely do we answer with our tastes, loves and fears. At the core we answer the question of who we are with badges of society, jobs, houses and cars, rather than our character and personality.
I was no different. At every party I held I would tell someone, I’m Dave and I work here, live there, drive this etc. Then it was all gone. The details are not hugely important, but one day I had the answers to those questions; the next day I had nothing to fill the blanks. I was Dave, I used to work here, live there and drive that and now, well now I don’t.
It turns out I was fortunate that I had landed from that loss in such a way that I saw the lie of social identity early on. I learnt that in fact I wasn’t the sum of my activity. I wasn’t the labels of my relationships or the name on a logbook or mortgage. I was more than my employment contract and salary. I was still here, even those the things I had listed as my identity were gone.
The Bible is littered with moments in which God declares our identity. We are his, we are loved, we are accepted, we are His sons and daughters. We are filled with potential and blessing to give to others. We are his good creation woven together for Him to enjoy. I have read the words of scripture since childhood and somewhere beneath the surface I believed them, but the reality had never dropped to much depth. Yet here I was lacking the things I had chosen to make my identity and the words of scripture resonated more than ever.
I remember sitting in Starbucks, drinking an almost cold coffee and realising that after a whirlwind few weeks of loss I was still here. It was like chaos had broken around me, my eyes had been caught by the things that blew away and in that moment of calm on a rainy day in York I was able to actually look at myself and look at God and realise that my real identity was still intact. It was perhaps the most redemptive moment of my life.
When we lose the things we love and have woven our souls around, it will hurt. Losing the answers to questions we are always asked can feel like part of us has been wrenched away, but we must find ways back, we must find ways to remember who we really are. We must remember the God who loves us, even in the darkness, who walks with us until the morning. The God who renews strength and lifts us up. The God who comforts and heals and redeems. It is only when we remember who we really are that we can see hope in the hopelessness.
The beauty of the Christian faith is that it is built on the premise that the worst day is not the end. In Starbucks that day I decided to live by that truth. That even when I can see no way out this is not the end. The faith built on a God-Man-King crucified and resurrected is that love wins, that God wins, that good wins. That we must not lose heart, we must keep hoping for redemption and rescue. Today, no matter what you face, take comfort, this is not the end; rescue is coming.