I was sitting outside with a cup of coffee catching some late-summer rays, and reading a new book I had just bought. But I was distracted by bird noises far above me in the skies. As I looked up I witnessed a spectacle that had me thinking for a long time after.
What I had seen was a large group of birds, getting ready to migrate south for the winter. They were so high that I could hardly make out what kind of bird they were - I am guessing geese, or cranes by their sheer size. For the next 5 minutes I watched them circle around, screeching loudly as if they were lost, asking each other for direction. It looked like complete chaos up there, and they were spiraling in circles, and there was now real formation to what must have been a hundred birds or so.
All of a sudden they became quiet. They had found or ordained their leader, and within seconds their shape changed to the familiar echelon, with one guide at the very tip. They had found their direction, and I watched them gracefully and swiftly move south as they embarked on their long journey to a place where they could escape the coming cold and darkness of the Nordic winter.
When it comes to recognizing the truth of our own identity and the direction of our spiritual journey, most of us experience some version of blindness that keeps us from seeing ourselves for who we really are. Tragically, we do not know who we are, what we look like, and where we are headed. And often, it takes an unlikely “other” to remind us what’s true, and where we can find our true destiny and purpose in life.
More and more I am convinced that the greatest question plaguing humanity has to do with identity. “Who am I really?” Is the fundamental question of our human experience.
We frequently begin our own introductions with reference to what we’ve done, or do for a living, as if that tells someone who we are. We have to remind ourselves that we are so much more than what we have done in our lives. These are only fragments of the whole - only small parts of our identity.
Even better, instead of asking “Who am I?”, we should ask, “What am I worth?” If we believe that we bear the imprint of God and are made in his image, then our true value is not earned, but based on our essence in reflecting a good and loving God.
I don’t know about you, but there are times when I need someone to point me in the right direction, so that I don’t get stuck in the cold, dark winter of my mind.