Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.1 Timothy 4:12
What Do You Do?
Joe and Tom were standing in line to get into the new Starbucks Reserve Roastery on Michigan Ave. in Chicago. The line was down the street and wrapped around the corner onto Erie St.
They had been in line for about 10 minutes with at least another 20 minutes to go until they would be able to get into the door.
“So, what do you do?” Joe asked Tom.
“I’m the Sales Manager at a local car dealership in town.” Tom answered. “What do you do?”
Joe said, “I fly for a regional airline.”
Conversations like this happen all over America every day. And if you look closely at what people say in response to “what do you do?” you will see the reality that we very often define ourselves by what we do.
Sales managers. Airline pilots. Delivery drivers. Stay-at-home dads and moms who homeschool children. These are all things that people do. And these are all things that people say that they are.
What Do You Do Now?
Three months later, Tom was let go from his position of 20 years at the dealership. Sales had dropped off significantly after the first of the year. Through no fault of his own, Tom found himself unemployed.
About the same time Joe found himself in the same predicament. Due to the grounding of certain types of aircraft, the regional airline he flew for during the last 15 years declared bankruptcy and shuttered its doors.
Joe and Tom had defined who they were by what they did. But now they had a problem! They didn’t do those things anymore. They were left with a deeply existential – and spiritual – question. Who am I?
Who You Are Is Not What You Do
This is not a new question or concept. Over the last 15 to 20 years I’ve been developing this thought about not defining ourselves by what we do.
Its pretty important that we don’t because we’ll be faced with the same question as Joe and Tom. If we define ourselves by what we do, and then we don’t do that anymore, who are we, really?
When you really get down to it, who you are is not dependent upon what you do with your life, your free time, or your money.
Yes, all those things are influenced by who you are. And all those things can be very important.
But they are not definitions of who you are! Because all those things can change. But who you are remains constant. Or at least it should.
Who Defines Who You Are
It will probably come as no surprise that you would read me say – or hear me say – that the ultimate authority of who you are is God.
I really believe that to be true. For me, it comes down to who would know me better than the One who made me?
I am not belittling others’ valuable input and influence into who we are. Our parents are vitally important in developing who we are. So are our closest friends and family. And let’s not forget our very selves!
We also have an important say in defining who we are.
For me, however, the final authority is God. This is true – again, for me – because I’m flawed, my family and friends are flawed, and God is not.
God created me. God re-created me, in Holy Baptism. And God has a plan for my life (see Jeremiah 29:11). This is also true for you!
What You Do With Who You Are
Part of that plan is to reproduce. To pass on what you are to another person, another generation.
But too often, we believe that this is to teach another person or generation about the Christian faith. As important as that is, it isn’t enough.
Teaching is part of the Great Commission given by Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20.
But teaching isn’t all there is!
I recently read in a leadership book these two sentences:
You can teach what you know.
But you can only reproduce what you are.
Building Leaders, Aubrey Malphurs & Will Mancini
Teaching is important. But to make disciples is reproduction. And we have to not just teach what we know, but also pass on who we are.
That begins with baptism. Because reproduction is part of life, and baptism is when God gives us new life, abundant life, eternal life!
Reproducing Who You Are
As a baptized Christian, we make disciples. This means that the Holy Spirit uses who we are – baptized children of God – to make more disciples.
Why? Because disciples are loved by God. Disciples are people whom Jesus’ saves because of God’s love.
And Jesus came to save the entire world. He does this through His death and resurrection. And he accomplishes this through us as we reproduce who we are.
Heavenly Father, help me to find strength and courage in knowing that You love me and have made me Your child in baptism. Strengthen my faith through the Means of Grace. And give me the courage to reproduce who I am in other people. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
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