As I prepared to write to you this morning I had two memories from my early years come to mind. One is this thing we laughed about—How do you get down off an elephant? Except for those who haven’t heard the question before, there is usually a bit of puzzled pondering. But, of course, you don’t get down off an elephant! You get down off a duck!
O.K., that tells you a bit about my childhood! (It explains a lot, doesn’t it?) Here’s the other memory—I was in high school, going out for a Friday night with my friends (or a date)—that detail has been lost to time. But what hasn’t been lost is the instruction my father would give (for he did this more than once): Remember who you are! After I finished writing to you last time I felt I should spend a couple of weeks talking about who you are in Christ, because too often we approach the Christian life as if we’re trying to get down off an elephant—because we don’t really understand who we are. When we understand who we are (and some of you do), our problem is that amid the living of life we forget who we are. I want to talk to you about that in my next couple of emails by sharing with you some ideas expressed by a simple (yet profound) affirmation Papa gave me several years ago, and which I have shared with many since. It is an affirmation I hope you can fully embrace, and more fully appreciate as we explore who we are. For I am convinced beyond belief that I am a dearly beloved, blood bought, child of The King!
Don’t worry, I’m not going to “unload the whole truck” in this email, but I want to begin (strangely enough) at the beginning. I am. I pause there because when I share with people about this issue, even with college age friends, I find a kind of “disconnect” between what God says is true about all of us who are “in Christ” and what we really believe to be true of us. Somehow we resolve the difficulty of not living out God’s description of us (“holy” or “saints”) with how we actually live, and particularly our struggles with sin. We’ll talk about that more in the weeks to come, but for today I want to emphasize that what I am writing is not about “theory” or “theology detached from life” (a terribly dangerous exercise in any event!). The things I am going to share are not “theoretically true” or “positional truth” or any such! These things are actually and literally true of everyone who is in Christ. Our problems with living it out generally arise because either (i) we don’t know who we are (so we’re like the Romans, to whom Paul asks “Or don’t you know . . .” [6:3]) or (ii) in the moment, we forget who we are. If we don’t know who we are, we spend much of our time trying to get down off a duck! When we know who we are, but forget in the moment, we fail to experience the victory in which Jesus leads us.
This is a significant issue! As I have already shared, I have been planning on writing to you about these things for at least a couple of weeks. Last night, as we flew to California, I was finishing my first read of John Stott’s The Radical Disciple. As I read, I came upon: Nearly all our failures stem from the ease with which we forget our comprehensive identity as disciples. Stott wrote this as his final book, by hand, when he was 88. After years of following Jesus, in many different contexts, he says nearly all our failures arise because we forgot who we are! Whoops! Let’s make that personal (for you and for me). Nearly all my failures to live as Papa intends arise because I forgot who I am! Not theoretically, but actually. Not at some future date but right now, in our mortal bodies (II Cor. 4:11).
You could now quickly answer, how do you get down off a duck?, may Papa give you boldness in responding to the question, Who are you?, with:
I am a dearly beloved, blood bought, child of the King!
And may He grant that you hear his voice as I so often heard my father’s, don’t forget who you are!