John 17: 22-23
22 “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one.23 I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.”
The other day I sat in a coffee shop writing a birthday card. I was about to meet one of my youth for a birthday breakfast – he was turning 18! As I sat jotting some thoughts down on this card, I mentioned that I was trying to remember where I was and what I was doing 15 years ago when I was 18. I chuckled as I thought about those days.
I finished the card, sealed it, and put it aside and turned my heart and attention to my journal. I started to think and journal more about what I was doing when I was 18. I figured it was a time in my life that I was chasing my dreams of being a professional hockey player. I had gone off to Notre Dame in Saskatchewan to play junior hockey. As I reflected about that season in my life, the Father reminded me of the letters I had written to myself when I was becoming a junior hockey player.
Before I left to Notre Dame, I decided to write a bunch of letters to myself. I wrote the letters, put them in an envelope, sealed and stamped them, and put a date on each of them. When the date would approach, my mom would just drop it in a mailbox. These were letters to myself, reminding me who I was.
Wow Father, how I need that now in my life…
I hadn’t read about this in any books or heard of anyone else doing it – and it was long before Brad Paisley wrote his songs “letters to me“. But, I just had this feeling that I’d get to Notre Dame and get so caught up in the busyness that I would forget who I was and why I was there. I knew myself well enough to know that once fighting for group acceptance, a place on the team, and safety and security, that I might forget who I am or what I value – or what it took to get me there.
I remember at one point in the year at Notre Dame getting one of these letters in the mail and dreading opening it. I knew I was not walking as the man I wanted to be – and I knew this letter would be myself, kicking my own butt. It would remind me of my identity.
On the Canoe Trip this year I talked about the temptations of Christ in the wilderness, and we looked at how all of these temptations always began for Jesus, and for us, and for Israel, with an attack against identity; “If you are the son of God“, satan chides at Jesus… If you are who you say you are…
So as I sat with my journal, I asked the Father, “What is my identity, Father? what is my identity?” and I sensed him saying back to me, “You are my son, David. I adopted you. I saw you – everything about you – and chose you. You are my son.”
I sat with it for a few minutes, letting my heart rest in that, and then asked him, “Father, what does that look like? I think I know that in my head, but how does the son of the universe Creator act? How does that change my day to day life?”
“First is love. I love you so much. I love you even when you sin, or don’t love me. My love for you is unending. When you walk in my love you don’t need to walk in or carry shame. Next is confidence. You are a prince to the greatest Kingdom ever known. You sill have battles to fight, but you can have confidence in my Kingdom and your place in it. You will fight battles, you’ll get tired, you’ll take some wounds, but you don’t ever need to walk in or carry fear.”
As I sat with the Father’s response, I prayed, “Father, I release shame and let go of fear.” And as I sat with that I felt fear and shame being replaced by joy. In the absence of shame and fear is joy. I sat with this for a while and then asked the Father, “Thank you for these words Father, but I forget this stuff so quickly. How can I remember who I am?”
The Father replied, “Ask me to remind you every morning. You ask me, every morning, to father you – and it brings me so much joy – but ask me to remind you that you’re my son. I’ll do it. It will bless you.”
“Father, I am excited but fearful of those words. What if this is all my imagination? And what if I can’t discern how you validate my identity every day?” I ask in response to his great invitation.
“Release fear. Accept joy. I gave you your imagination.”
So I prayed, “Father, I release fear. I release the fear of not hearing, of not knowing. I renounce fear in my life in the name of Jesus. I claim joy in it’s place. I also consecrate my imagination to you Father. May my imagination be Holy ground. I ask you to cleanse my imagination. Heal it. I give all my creativity and imagination to you, Father. I ask you to remind me of my identity. I love you, Dad. Amen!”
And I closed my journal.
Pause. I have this fear that if I ask the Father to show me my identity every day that He might not come through. That I might not see it, or I might not hear anything. The Father’s invitation to ask him, every morning, was exciting – but also one that brought about fear. Do I wait on the Father with expectation and anticipation of His goodness? I need to believe He is good.
As I began to pack up my journal and head to breakfast, a sticker fell out of my journal. I sometimes print and cut out sticker and throw them into my journal at random places. I bent over to pick up the sticker and as I picked it up and looked at it, I couldn’t believe what the sticker was:
Before I had even gotten my journal into my backpack, the Father had answered my question, “Who am I to you Father? What is my identity?” And He, in his eternal playfulness, responds, “YOU are my favourite, David.” I had tears in my eyes, and a smile on my face as I felt the Father hug me.
I wrote these letters to myself when I was 18 years old. To remind myself of my identity. Today, at work, I’m spending a lot of time looking into the crisis with the Rohingya Muslims – and I can’t help but be moved when I read that they have no identity. No country wants them, no country will give them citizenship. They can’t be called Burmese, or Bengali, or Indian, or Rhakine. Their identity has been forgotten over the decades of conflict and wandering. But we have an identity as daughters and sons of such a good good Father.
Ask him to reveal it to you and then wait with expectation and anticipation of His goodness.