For our Monday devotionals through Advent we are e using a resource called “Our Hope and Expectation: Devotions for Advent and Christmas.” Here is today’s devotional:
This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.”
Who am I? This or the other? Am I one person today, and tomorrow another? Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others and before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling? Or is something within me still like a beaten army, fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?
Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine. Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison
Free to be me
As a child I loved the songs, short stories, and teachings in the “Free to Be … You and Me” program created by Marlo Thomas. It gave children permission to be themselves. One shortcoming in the program, and in the general focus on “being yourself” in our culture, however, is the assumption that we know who we are. Many of us struggle much of our lives to answer that question. Often we have to accept who we are not, as much as who we are.
John the Baptist seems like the kind of person who figured out who he was, perhaps through years of deep spiritual reflection, testing and prayer. In today’s scripture reading we hear one other important part of John figuring out who he was: knowing who he was not. He was important, but not the Messiah. He was beloved of God, and that was enough.
Who are you? Start with “beloved of God.” Let go of who you are not. Trust that you are God’s and you will be free to be you - even as you spend your life figuring out exactly what that means.
O God, you know who I am. Help me to trust my belovedness in you, and to honour the belovedness in everyone I encounter today. Amen.
From: “Our Hope and Expectation: Devotions for Advent and Christmas 2020-2021”, Augsburg Fortress 2020, p. 36-37.