We often find ourselves asking, “Who am I?” But yesterday I was asking God, “Who was I all those years when I did not know who I was?”
Most of my early life I felt as if I had to hide my true self. As it was, I felt unknown and much like a non-person. To get any interaction at all, it seemed like I had to become someone else — someone the other person might like. Consequently, I never knew my own true heart. Nor did I know anyone who might respond to the real me with love and care (had I known who I was).
For many years now, I have thought that the recovery work I did in the mid-1980’s and the healing work since 2000 had given me my identity as a new person in Christ. But God challenged that perception yesterday, and showed me how He had preserved my heart from early childhood on. In fact three separate incidents in my first 19 years revealed who I really was.
First, at Bible camp when I was 13, God showed up one night and swept across the campground like fire. Everyone felt His movement and there was not a dry eye anywhere in camp. We were up until past midnight praying, singing, and sharing with one another what God was doing in us and for us (a true spontaneous revival). Then at 16, I spent a week at a Bible camp near Estes Park where I felt as if my soul had been liberated from hell. I could not bear the thought of going back ‘home’ to be swallowed up again by my life there. Finally, at 19 I spent a semester at Bethel College in St. Paul, where once again I felt totally alive. At the time, I attributed it to the campus itself. But in later years I realized it was because I had been released from my family.
For several decades, I have thought of all three of these incidents as “mountain top” experiences — events which are wonderful but do not last very long. What I now believe is that these were windows into the person God created me to be, and a glimpse of “who I was” in the Kingdom of God. My real self was just buried under mounds of rubbish. What has happened to me since the mid-1980’s is that God has been clearing away the rubbish, forever, and cleaning up my heart that was scarred from all the stuff that had messed up my life.
Perhaps God’s greatest gifts to me were to ensure my conversion by the time I was six, and then to preserve my heart until I was old enough to begin the healing journey back to Him. I am grateful beyond words. And I doubt that this short meditation has captured the depth of what that means to me. But I feel more whole today, knowing that He has been with me all the time, carrying me and protecting me even when I had no idea He was there.