Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote these words in his Letters from Prison, while awaiting execution for his involvement in the assassination attempt on Hitler.
I was mocked by that question for a long time too. I felt adrift, unhappy in my career (but ironically successful in it) and pestered by a feeling that I should be doing something good, which would improve the world. I spent a lot of time in self examination, pondering the question “Who am I?”
I did studies and wrote essays trying to answer it genetically, sociologically, geographically, and spiritually. As is my nature, I was turning the whole process into an assignment, creating stress rather than relieving it.
One day I was racing down the interstate toward the airport to catch a flight, while listening to the radio. I’d heard the song that was playing many times, but I’d never really paid attention to the lyrics.
Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth
Would care to know my name
Would care to feel my hurt?
Who am I, that the bright and morning star
Would choose to light the way
For my ever wondering heart?
Not because of who I am
But because of what You’ve done
Not because of what I’ve done
But because of who You are
I am a flower quickly fading
Here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean
A vapor in the wind
Still You hear me when I’m calling
Lord You catch me when I’m falling
And You told me who I am
I am Yours, I am Yours
It hit me then that the lyricist had nailed it. I needed to step back and start with the most obvious answer.
Of course that answer begs many more questions and once I started pursuing what that answer really means, I quickly found that it’s still a difficult and mysterious question that a lifetime of thinking won’t answer completely.
I’m still thinking about it. But like Bonhoeffer, my journey took me to a place where I was able to give at least a preliminary answer to the great question. As Bonhoeffer wrote:
Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine. Whoever I am, thou knowest O God, I am thine.