Who We Are, What We Do, Who We Know

photo by lauren rushing

Last week, I went to a gathering of twentysomethings-- the kind where more than fifty people crowded into a cute cottage-like house downtown around a table full of mismatched pots of soups, pans of cornbread and bottles of red wine. Throughout the evening, the same questions kept coming up over and over: what my name was, what I do for a living, and who else I knew there and how.

Each time, as I said my name, tried to put my current writer + freelancer + nanny job situation into a concise little explanation, and said which girl I knew and how I had come to be in attendance that night, an interesting thought struck me.

We want to know who people are. We share our names within seconds of coming face-to-face with someone new. Then we take it one step further and we share our occupations next. And then, almost always, we want to figure out connections-- who do you know here, who did you hear about this from, what mutual friends do we have, etc.

Who we are. What we do. Who we know.

It's only after these things are established that we can choose to either continue the conversation and begin building a relationship with that person or decide we aren't interested in getting to know them better and turn away.

It struck me that Jesus tells us about who he is in this same way in John 10.

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. ... I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.
— John 10:11, 14-15

Who He is. What He does. Who He knows.

And, like expected, after He establishes these things with the crowd around him, some reject it and turn away, and some defend Him and challenge the doubters.

I can imagine if Jesus was in that crowded house with me last week, a paper bowl of soup in hand like the rest of us, that He would have seemed like the rest of us, mingling around answering questions and sharing information and shaking lots of hands. 

I also think that most of us that night were (whether we realized it or not) trying to put our best foot forward and make positive first impressions. Where my introverted self would have preferred just talking to my one good friend the whole night, I found myself meeting several new people, listening to one guy share enthusiastically about his faith, laughing at bad jokes, and standing in circles of strangers instead of just with one friend. I cared what these people thought of me, especially since I didn't know most of them and wanted them to think I was cool, attractive, fun, engaging, etc. I tried to make my job situation seem fun and exciting, even though most days it's draining and taxing. I laughed often and cracked jokes and tried to seem "on."

Why? 

The passage in John ends with some of the crowd saying that Jesus must be demon-possessed and raving mad. Some of the crowd sticks up for him in response. And then the story moves on to another day. It doesn't really seem to me like it bothered Jesus all that much what people thought of Him.

I think if Jesus had been at that gathering, He would have made some friends and He would have weirded some people out. And I really don't think He would have been all that wrecked by it. Reading through the Gospels, it's pretty clear that Jesus was no stranger to adversity and controversy and having enemies. 

And yet, there I was, trying to act cool and fun and attractive to these people instead of just confidently being who I was.

I don't think Jesus didn't care that people thought He was raving mad-- I'm very sure that He would have much rather those people loved Him and chosen to follow Him and walk in faith...but He wasn't deterred in His ministry and His life by their lack of approval.

I don't think anybody has ever called me demon-possessed or raving mad (pretty intense things to say, honestly) but I've been deterred and discouraged by much less. 

Why?

There's no way every person at that gathering was going to want to be my best friend. There's no way every one of them would have liked me. I didn't really need to act like anyone or anything I wasn't just to try to win them over and make them like me. I didn't need to try to make my job seem glamorous or laugh at jokes I didn't find funny or anything like that.

I just need to follow the example Jesus set. Confidently declaring who I am, what I do, who I know, knowing that some may approve and some may think I'm crazy and flat out reject me.

Who am I? Beloved. A daughter of the King. Forgiven, redeemed, free, alive, brave, beautiful, known.

What do I do? Worship my Creator, walk by faith, trust Him, surrender, follow, believe.

Who do I know? The Lord of the Universe, the King of Kings, the Alpha and Omega, the Prince of Peace, the Son of God, my Savior and Friend.