“…Who am I? Who am I? I am Jean Valjean…Who am I? 24601!”
This lyric is from a song in the musical version of Les Miserables, based on the book by Victor Hugo, first published in 1862. If you’re unfamiliar with the story, this song is about the main character, Jean Valjean, wrestling with a moral dilemma. He’s an ex-convict, who with the help of a priest, experienced a dramatic transformation in his life. He has gone from being an angry, hardened, and violent man to a prosperous and respected professional. He was a successful business man and mayor of his town. His one misstep in that transition, however, was discarding the identity papers given to him upon his release from prison which he was supposed to present to anyone seeking his identification. Because of the unjust and cruel reactions heaped upon him whenever he showed these papers, he tore them up and threw them away. This act was a punishable crime.
In the course of the play, another man is mistakenly arrested and charged with his crime. Valjean’s dilemma is whether to allow this innocent man to unjustly bear his punishment or reveal the truth and sacrifice all he has achieved. Thus the question: “Who am I? Is his true self the businessman or the convict, ergo his prison identity 24601? Valjean decides to reveal the truth and does.
The question, “Who am I” is an ever present question for me, and I suspect many others. There is the “me” I was told I was by my parents; there’s the “me” my family thinks I am; there’s the “me” that others (including folks in the church) perceive or want me to be; there’s the “me” the enemy has, at times, tried to convince me that I am; there’s even the “me” I want to be. And with each definition of “me” comes a set of expectations (someone else’s or the ones I self-impose). Of course, these various “me’s” don’t always align with each other, and at times that has produced some inner wrestling, a little like Jean Valjean.
The experience and impact of GOD’s gift of salvation and His sanctifying work has confronted all of these “me’s” in different ways at different stages of my life, and has given me a completely different lens through which to view “me.”
A friend and I were recently talking about what it means to be a “bondservant” of Christ, a term we see frequently in the New Testament. In Scripture the status of bondservant was a voluntary, not a forced choice. It was often chosen because the prospective servant loved the person they intended to serve. Once service was volunteered and accepted, this was a lifetime appointment formed as a covenant relationship. The bondservant was bound to one he or she served, and their life was subsumed (incorporated) in the identity and purposes of this person.
Who am I? I am a bondservant (doulos) of Jesus Christ, a choice that I made years ago. He knew me before I was in my mother’s womb. He waited patiently for me, so that He could reveal to me who He called me to be. He is the answer to “me.” His way is my way. His truth is my truth. His life is my life. There are other “me’s” available to me, but His is the one where my deepest joy, peace and purpose is found. I know who I am. How about you?
© Byron L. Hannon, 2018. All rights to text content are reserved.