I sounds a strange question because of course I am me i.e. Susan. However it is a more profound question than that. We need an answer to give to people when we meet them. One of the first questions people ask when they meet us for the first time is what do you do?
In the business world there is the idea of an elevator speech. The short statement that you are supposed to have memorised so that you can describe what you you and our business does in the time it takes to go from one floor to the next in an elevator. The aim is to have a prepared introductory statement so that they can decide whether or not it is a good idea pursuing the conversation.
It is one of the things that I have struggled with for a long time. As I have been struggling with this issue I have realised that there are a number of aspects to this. One is who am I to do this? Another is how do I explain to others what I do. A third is how do other people see us and what we do. I am not the first to face this challenge it was one of the challenges Jesus faced.
The challenge Jesus had as Messiah
In one sense it is reassuring to know that this was a challenge that He had to overcome. One of the times when it came to the fore was at His trial. The religious elite made all sorts of allegations against Him. He just did not fit in with their expectations so in their eyes there was no way that He could be the Messiah they were expecting
The argument is then taken to the secular authorities and they wanted to hear both sides of the argument. That is why Pilate asked Jesus “are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answer was “It is as you say?” One way of looking at this is that Jesus was saying I am who you say that I am. Or if you say that I am the King of the Jews then I am.
Imagine being so clear in sharing who you say that you are that people see it and respond to it in the way you would like them to do. I have struggled to make it possible for others to see what I do. Here was Jesus being so sure of His calling that He could stand in front of accusers on trial for His life and say that he was who they said he was and then stay silent.
Anyone who has faced a stream of verbal abuse knows that it is not easy staying quiet. They also know that it is a good tactic in the sense that it stops the situation escalating. Well, if one side is staying silent it is very difficult to get into an argument. OK it does irritate the opposition but you do this while you are protecting yourself from saying things that you would regret later.
The challenge of helping others see who you are
In many ways this has been the biggest challenge I have faced over the years. When you look at the Who is God’s Lily? page you will see that my starting point was somewhat general to say the least. It got better when I had the vision of Lily’s Place The two came together even more as I started writing The Manifesto that is NOT for Wimps.
This put a very useful boundary around what I was doing. A boundary that led to me preparing materials for people who want to make a fresh start with their lives called Find your Purpose Love your Life. It started with a book and hopefully one day will become a video series. The book introduces the 3Rs of moving forwards i.e. releasing the past by forgiving, retuning your heart by accepting what God says about something and reframing your thinking so that you see things the way God does.
Another way it has been a boundary is that it means that I have also looked at financial issue from the point of view of using money to help others. That was the point of the Financing Kingdom Work book. The sub-title says a lot about my intentions i.e. Financial survival tips for those who are building the Kingdom Of God.
In addition to this I have wanted to develop one program for those who need to recover from a financial collapse called bridge to riches that starts with stories of bridges that have collapsed before considering how to move forwards . Then there is the Money Eyeopener project which is for those who are not in dire straits but who want to earn more so that they can give more.
More about the 3Rs
The 3Rs of moving forwards can be used in a variety of situations including this one. Developing this system is a useful way of system of of applying biblical truth. The 3Rs are often seen as the starting point for education i.e. reading, writing (‘riting) and arithmetic (‘rithmetic). The basic building blocks that need to be in place for education to be effective. These 3Rs are the basic building blocks of moving forwards. The beauty of them is that they are biblically based but still accessible to everyone.
Here is the 3Rs in practise.
- What things from the past is it necessary to release? What about those people who did not accept me for who I was when I knew them and therefore expected me to be something different? The classic is the teenagers who were unsure of themselves and then became jealous because you looked or behaved like they wanted to do. Another perennial is the family who shared their limiting beliefs and so held you back as well. In other words who have others said that you are but have got it plain wrong?
- What retuning is necessary? Who does God way that you are? That is a bit more challenging. I find that I have the greatest clarity of listening to God first thing in the morning. The way I do it is say help Father there is something I really want to know and then share my question with Him before I go to sleep. Often I then wake up with an answer running through my thoughts and I need to grab a pencil and paper to record it. The answers are often surprising as they were this morning. I heard God tell me that this is what I should be saying about myself “I am the voice of those frustrated with the slow progress towards a fair society where the needs of the weakest are met in such a way that it strengthens them rather than weakens them.” In some ways it is still not very specific but it definitely gives me food for thought.
- What reframing is needed? There are many places where the issue of who Jesus comes up in the gospels. There are all those I am statements. Then there is the time when He asks His disciples who do men say that I am. Yet when I was struggling to work through this issue my attention was supernaturally drawn to this conversation with Pilate. Could that statement really be reinforcing the idea that who we say we are is not as important as who others say that we are? How do people know who we are? They pick it up from the impressions that we give them from the way we behave. Behave like a lawyer or a great teacher or a doctor and you will be treated like one. The important thing is to know who we are and then behave that way. So if you are an author then you behave like an author and make it possible for people to buy your books as often as you can.
Something a preacher said years ago that has stuck in my memory is that Jesus went through so many things during the last few hours of His life so that He could do a swap with us. We hear the idea that He took the punishment on our behalf without realising the full impact of it.
He was mocked so that He could take the impact of that on Himself and provide a way for us to be healed from unkind words, however serious the effect on us was. He was injured so that He could help us recover from injuries. He was left exposed on the cross that He carried the shame of other people exposing us.
What if the reason why He went through a trial was to help those of us being accused of all sorts of things? Including the idea that we cannot be who God says we are because that is not what other people expect us to be. He knows what it is like to stand there in front of people saying you cannot be who God the Father has told you that you are.
Right at the beginning of His ministry i.e. at His baptism there was that confirmation that Jesus was something really special. This is my beloved son listen to Him. There were many other confirmations. Some of which we easily overlook but that made His accusers look as though they were wrong. They were so determined to look right that they did something about the person that was making them seem wrong.
Some things don’t change. We still have people who see certain preachers and teachers in the church and complain about them. They just don’t come up to their standards. Others may follow and get great benefit from a particular ministry but others just don’t get it and criticise them loudly and often.
It sounds daft but there are times when I see the sort of criticisms some people make and it has the opposite effect to what they intended. The are actually encouraging me to look at what they are criticising more closely and try it for myself.
People still have to defend themselves from their critics. Yes there are times when criticism helps us improve. Other times it can be quite destructive or harmful. Those are the times when you really need to know who you are and what you are called to so that you can stand on God’s truth.
The hard bit as I have found out is working out what you are called to do and expressing it so clearly that other people are in no doubt about what you do.