It was an unfortunate case of mistaken identity.
I was 11 years old and was shopping in a Pamida store, when I found something to show my brother. He didn't come when I called. Since I could see him from the corner of my eye, I knew he was ignoring me. "Tim!" I said again, "Look at this!" Annoyed when he still didn't respond, I walked toward him. He was bent over, facing away from me, the seat of his pants temptingly within reach of my foot.
I like to think I didn't kick; I prefer to recall it as a slight tap with the toe of my shoe. Regardless, my brother jumped and spun around with a breathless "Excuse me?"—except it wasn't my brother. It was a middle-aged woman in a blue Pamida smock. My brother was two aisles away, I discovered as I ran toward the door, my face flaming.
Embarrassing, to say the least. I have never entered that Pamida since, afraid the woman in the blue smock will recognize the source of her recurrent nightmares.
Sometimes mistaken identity isn't so funny; sometimes it goes far beyond mere embarrassment.
In Matthew 16, Jesus asked His disciples what people were saying about Him. They replied, "Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets."
Talk about mistaken identity! Some Israelites were convinced Jesus was a man who had died centuries before. Others weren't quite sure but admitted He was a bit out-of-the-ordinary. They were impressed with His miracles, and His peculiar teachings gave them something to talk about over supper. That's as far as it went.
Unperturbed, Jesus asked, "But whom say ye that I am?" Peter spoke up: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God."
What would you have said? Who is Jesus to you? A religious teacher? An irrelevant historical figure?
Later, Jesus explained His identity this way: "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6).
Peter got it right. Jesus was--and still is--the one and only Son of God, the one and only way God has provided to come to God. His identity is all-important and non-negotiable. So are the consequences for your beliefs about Him.
I am sorry to say I was not listening to the sermon. No, I was thinking how lonely, unfair, and--above all --how misunderstood my life was.
I have forgotten why, but that particular morning I was ready to boil over. It was then that an infinitely patient God, knowing I wasn't paying attention to my dad's preaching, placed a thought in my head: journal.
Of course, I thought it was my own clever idea. As soon as I got home that afternoon, I raided Mom's closet for a notebook. The victim I chose had a dark blue cover to reflect my mood, and it was college ruled so I could cram all my self-righteous assertions into its unsuspecting pages.
I wasted no time. Finally, I thought, I have an outlet for self-expression. Make that selfish expression. Every time my fragile feelings got hurt or the world didn't treat me with the respect I deserved, I marched to my bedroom, whipped out my notebook, and wrote. And wrote... and wrote.
I'm not proud of the way I began journaling. But I'm thankful, oh-so-thankful, the Lord not only gave me the idea, but also patiently guided my writing. The blue notebook was followed by the green one, and then the red one... Likewise, immature rants gradually gave way to a more balanced perspective. I began documenting my aspirations and honest soul-searching; then my meditations on God's Word and written prayers.
My journals chronicle my spiritual journey, and I've kept all of them. They contain written expression of thoughts and ideas just between God and me. But sometimes I go through a period when the journal gathers dust and the pen lies still. I'm not sure what brings on dry spells, but I do know I am not the same when I'm not journaling regularly. It means I'm not internalizing that which the Lord is teaching me.
Well, I've had a dry spell recently, and I've needed a jumpstart. Enter a remarkable little book:
Yes, I admit it. All of this has been leading up to a book recommendation.
Me, Myself and I AM is a sleek little hard-back book that packs a punch. All it does is ask questions. But when those questions are probing questions about your relationship with the Lord, all you need is a little honesty and you're well on your way to some serious introspection. Warning: you may not like what you discover about yourself. I'm on page 48, and I've had a few surprises, veteran journaler that I am.
Not all the questions are life-changing, granted. But who doesn't like listing their favorite foods and cool Christmas presents?
Then you turn the page and have to confront this one: "Three things I do currently that I am not proud of." Or how about, "The word that best describes Jesus' place in my life is..."
Bottom line: this book, coupled with the all-important honesty-factor and a little time, is an effective way to get to know yourself and your relationship with Jesus for what it really is. Even after I make it though page 83, I've got plenty of fodder for journaling on my own again.
Me, Myself and I Am can be purchased here: http://www.christianbook.com/
Want a FREE copy for yourself? Leave me a comment. Any comment.
Onward and upward!