A FedEx delivery man came to my door, and his question to me (translated into English) was: “Are you, you?”
It caught me off guard. How do I answer that question? I didn’t know how to say “duh!” in the local language, so I simply said “yes.” Of course I’m me; who else would I be?
But his question went far beyond the few words that he uttered. “Are you, you?” was his way of asking: are you who I expect you to be? Are you the one I’m looking for? Are you the one who belongs here?
Maybe a better, if less literal, translation would be: is it really you?
How do I measure my response to that question? My ID says it’s me. The package he was carrying did indeed have my name on it. My wife calls me by that name.
But am I who I should be? The FedEx delivery guy had certain expectations for who I should be by virtue of the fact that he came to a particular address and I was the one who opened the door. So, perhaps the correct answer to this question of identity depends on who’s asking.
There are plenty of expectations out there for who I should be. I’ve had a variety of roles: son, brother, husband, student, teacher, co-worker, administrator, editor, author, tenant, leader, computer repairman, A/V technician…. Wow. Has my identity changed that many times? Can I really be so many different things, many of them all at once? Could an army of FedEx delivery men arrive at my door together, each of them asking me “Are you, you?” yet expecting slightly different responses?
Where does it end? Lord willing, I have many decades of life yet ahead of me, and I expect that my array of roles will to continue to grow. Is there a limit to the number of appropriate identities that I can adopt?
Am I me?
Perhaps part of the definition of integrity is simply this: the answer to who am I is consistent no matter who’s asking. That’s a tall order when there’s many spheres of people with differing expectations for my answer. Maybe I’ll start with this: can I answer the question of my identity the same way when God asks it of me as when I ask it of myself?
And no shortcutting here. No getting away with a trite answer like, “I am a person” or even “I am a child of God.” Who am I? Who has He made me to be? Identifiers are only useful insofar as they distinguish us from others. Do I have commonalities with others? Absolutely–I’m a member of several different spheres of community. But who am I in contrast to everyone else who is living or who ever has lived or who ever will live?
If I can answer that question, FedEx men the world over will be hesitant to knock on my door ever again. 🙂