I will begin my “return” to blogging after many months with a few thoughts about identity. If you aren’t a regular reader or someone who knows me, you will probably find this a bit laborious. Sorry. I’ll try to do more for you in the following entries!
“Identity” is a word that is at the heart of a number of debates today. The dictionary defines it in various ways: “The condition of being oneself or itself, and not another”; “Condition or character as to who a person or what a thing is; the qualities, beliefs, etc. that distinguish or identify a person or thing”; or “the sense of self, providing sameness and continuity in personality over time and sometimes disturbed…” (I confess I love the “sometimes disturbed” part!)
By these definitions there are both internal and external determinants of identity–both objective and subjective contributors to who I am.
One of the reasons I haven’t blogged in several months is my identity. Because of things that happened to me, people began to identify me as “the guy with cancer”. More than one person has voiced fascination at talking with someone who went through what I did and “who is still alive”. And I began to realize that I was buying into this–I was beginning to see myself as “the guy with cancer”. I didn’t want to be that guy.
Of course there is some truth to this description. My disease is inactive and stable right now, but it is still there. I am still a primary amyloidosis (Type AL) patient.
But is that WHO I AM?
I find I can’t accept that. Part of who I am is objective and determined by a force far greater than me. I am a man–male–created that way, and immutably so regardless of whether I perceive it to be so or not. I am now 61 years old–frankly older than I ever thought I would live to be. And even though I see myself as 33 (I have added to this blog a picture of me that age, and I am genuinely shocked every time I look in the mirror and that guy isn’t looking back), the facts indicate that I really am that old. And yes, I am a very, very rare individual–a person with an early diagnosis of amyloidosis.
But is that all I am?
God has given me the freedom to “write my own script”. To determine the character I will play in life and become that person. So, I am Christian. I really do believe in Jesus–and in scripture–and I have devoted my life for 45 years to following him whether or not it is convenient, comfortable or popular. The reason is simple. He loved and forgave me when he had no reason whatsoever to do so. Having forgiven me, he cleaned me up. Over and over and over. And then he added to my life so many things to make me grow more mature, stronger, and able to help others. I deserve none of this. But he is faithful. So, I will try to be also.
But I’m imperfect. Of course any real Christian gets that. Jesus came to seek and save the lost–and that fit me perfectly! I once wore my imperfection as a sort of badge. It gave me the right to be wrong–after all, no one is perfect. It gave me the freedom to mess up (again, no one is perfect). It even gave me a way to relate to those I am reaching out to as an ambassador of Jesus–the imperfect ones. But now my imperfection is simply true. I don’t embrace it–I try bit by bit to whittle it down. But only Jesus can perfect me, so I wait for that day.
I’m husband, dad, grandfather. I chose a relationship with Donna 43 years ago, and God has continued to strengthen that relationship and blend the two of us to the point that I truly don’t know what I would do without her. Not without what she does–which is amazing sometimes–but without her. 38 years ago she made me a father–and then again three more times (we lost twins in the last pregnancy). Those kids have made me a grandpa 11 times over–each relationship redefining me as I learn more about these young people.
I am gifted. I’m told I am a gifted teacher, and I love teaching in every aspect of my life. But I believe the biggest personal gift (besides the people in my life) He has given me is experience. One of my mentors once commented that God allows me to live 20 years worth of experiences in each year. It has been that kind of life! And I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I have encountered more than I ever dreamed I would. And I have been scared, hurt, encouraged, derided, threatened, strengthened, and used–and it is the being used I am most happy about. God has allowed me to see ways he has used me in others’ lives–an amazing privilege.
And I am growing old. That guy in the mirror is the real me–whether I like it or not. I won’t give in to it if I don’t have to, but my body just won’t do what it used to. So now I have a choice of just sitting around (tempting–I have a lot of physical pain), or finding things I CAN do. So, I’m working on that one. I recently realized I might be able to do something I have wanted to do for over 50 years–so I’m trying. And no, I won’t tell you what that is–yet.
I write all this to welcome you back to my blog–a blog where, like most, I share out of the experiences God has given me. It is my intent to add to this blog approximately weekly from now on. I hope this in some way strengthens, encourages or even entertains you. And if it does, share that part of your life with someone else. It is one of the most amazing things God allows us to do!