What I Am

April 17, 2014

So wake me up when it’s all over
When I’m wiser and I’m older
All this time I was finding myself
And I didn’t know I was lost

Avicii, “Wake Me Up”

Have you ever wondered what you are?  Not what you look like, or what you do, but what you are, in your very essence?

Growing up, I treated my likes and dislikes like delicate fibers of my being that I must not break.  I felt like my identity and personality rested on trivial things like my favorite color and having super long hair.  It took me years to admit to myself – wait, am I actually admitting this publicly? – that The Lord of the Rings was not actually my favorite book/movie anymore.  (Gasp!  There, I said it.  But it doesn’t mean much because I don’t have a new ultimate favorite to replace it…so it still wears the crown, symbolically.)

I felt as though being constant, reliable, and unchanging was a valuable trait and one of my “strengths”.  If someone had told me, “Wow, you’ve changed,” even if they meant it as a compliment, I would have reacted with private anxiety and grief.  Changed?  What part of Bethany-ness have I lost?

Then I got older, and realized…oh…this person I am needs to change.  Maturity required it.  Sanctification required it.  And I couldn’t stop it, no matter how hard I tried.  God didn’t design me to be static – only He is unchangeable because He is perfect!


I have changed a lot in recent years (for the better, I pray!).  Even though I’ve done away with a lot of the childlike ideas I had about defining myself, that only serves to tell me how not to understand my being.  Each time I need to write a description or summary of myself for a website bio, I am stymied.  I usually end up explaining my life circumstances, listing my hobbies and interests, maybe taking a stab at describing my personality.  But that feels so shallow to me.  I can do more than that for the characters in my books who came out of my imagination!

Obviously I can understand my own motivations and what makes me tick as a person – sort of.  But how do I define that?  How do I harness into words what I can barely wrap my head around?  I still have lots of questions.

  • How do we define what we are?
  • How deeply are our hobbies a part of us?  Am I inherently a writer?  Will I always be one, or is this wonderful pursuit of word-crafting something God has only given me to do for a season?  (I hope not!  But who knows?)
  • How much of my natural personality is based in sin?  Do I have to do away with my personality to be godly?  (I don’t believe so!)  Is it sinful to be reserved, for example, or absent-minded?
  • Is it actually possible to dig down and find a core of my identity and understand what I am?  Is there such a thing?  What does each of us reduce to, when you strip away all the nonessential frippery of this temporary life?  How do you define a soul?
  • Can I ever really understand what I am?  Am I even supposed to?

I know what a lot of you are thinking right now.  “You’re a child of God.  That’s what you are.  Your identity is found in Christ!  Stop overthinking all this existential tripe.”

Yes, that is absolutely true – my relationship to God is the most important facet of my identity.  But I’m not content to label myself “human being, redeemed by God” and leave it at that.  There are many children of God.  There’s only one me!

(Did God make me to overanalyze?  Is that part of who I am?  Is that a bad thing?  *grin*)

As I was writing this, it occurred to me – I don’t find it difficult to sum up who God is.  God is definitely complicated, mysterious, and so far above our human understanding that we could never completely fathom His ways and His wisdom.  At the root, though, in a summary…He is GOD.  There is none like Him.  It’s not complicated.  Maybe that’s what He meant when He told Moses His name was “I AM.”  Because He just is!  He has no problems describing Himself in a nutshell.  He created all the nutshells!

But we are finite.  We don’t exist in and of ourselves – our identities are rooted in who He is because it is He who breathes life into us.  Maybe that’s why we can’t define ourselves very well, except in our connection with God.

Me, a single soul?  I’m just one of gazillions of human souls.  What I want to know is what sets me apart from all the other human beings out there.  What makes me me.

Maybe I’ll never know.  Maybe this disconnect with defining myself is part of the fall.  Or maybe God simply created human beings to be complex, as He is.  There are so many of us!  We all have different thumbprints, different faces, different freckle patterns.  God is a God who loves diversity!  Black and white, introvert and extrovert, loud people and quiet people, active and reflective, bubbly and reserved, explorers and creators.  There are endless variations on the human personality (all in His image!), and we can barely understand our own selves.  Often we can’t even understand fictional characters to their depths…who were created by even more complex authors…who were created by an even more complex God!

I can’t fathom how amazing it will be to spend eternity with the Lord, not only delving deeper into knowing Him, but also the near-endlessly complex personalities of one another, and getting to the root of who we are and what He made us for, to sing His praise.  It’s going to be incredible.

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ.  He is the true God and eternal life. – 1 John 5:20


How do you define yourself?  Do you find it difficult to do?

Many thanks to whoever wrote that Avicii song, because that strain of lyrics running through my head all week is what re-awoke all these musings and started this post to simmering. 😀


  1. Blah. If I try to navel gaze, I see what a despicable sinner I am. I’d rather focus elsewhere. :-p

    • I never thought of it as navel gazing…I thought of it as curiosity about what a soul is, and how I know mine is unique. But I know what you mean. 🙂

  2. Definitely sharing this with my INFJ friend! 😉
    I’ve thought these same things! Is “personality” a physical thing? Will we have the same personality in heaven? You’d think so… but is it defined by my body/gender/upbringing at all? It’s all very interesting. How DO you define a soul? Is it separate from the brain? I like that too – are we defined by our sin? Like, who would we be without a sin nature?

    • “Will we have the same personality in heaven”?

      This post was actually originally about that very idea, but it changed course and I ended up not talking about that much. My first reaction is EEEEEW, NO! 😛 My second reaction is, If God created people male and female, two distinct genders, right from the start – why should we think he wants us all to be the same? He encourages the church by telling everyone to pursue their own (unique) callings and gifts that He gave them. In short, God loves diversity – I did talk about that a bit – and I *don’t* believe our souls/personalities are the same, nor should they be. I don’t see any reason to believe God will “level us all out” in heaven. Sin will be gone, and yes, we will be balanced out a bit because of that, but as I said in the post, I don’t think we have to do away with personality to do away with sin. Lots of personality traits are morally neutral. 🙂

      I don’t know if the soul is distinct from the brain or not, but I believe body + soul are both part of who we are. There’s a quote attritbuted to C.S. Lewis: “You don’t have a soul – you are a soul, you have a body.” See, I disagree with that. We have a body AND a soul. My body is the true Bethany just like my soul is the true Bethany. Both are marred by sin, but this is me, outside and inside.

      Will we be completely changed into different people at the Second Coming? I don’t think so. We will be redeemed, but just like Jesus retained the scars on his body from his crucifixion, I think we will still retain who we are, only cleansed of all our unrighteousness.

      • And then why should we spend time with one another in heaven if we were all the same? 😉

        Can you tell I’m wigged out by uniformity? Hahaha.

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