I travel a lot. I’m in and out of airports on a regular basis. That has gained me the privilege over time of moving more quickly through TSA checkpoints because, theoretically, they know who I am. Which is why I was so stunned to be stopped recently at Dulles. I was in the right line. I presented the right documents. But none of that mattered. When my driver’s license was passed under the light it made the device blink red instead of green. It didn’t matter that my I.D. was valid. It didn’t matter that visually the agent could see that the picture on the I.D. matched the person standing before him. All that mattered was my I.D. didn’t pass muster with the machine. No amount of protesting on my part, no amount of pleading that I am who it says I am was getting me anywhere. I now travel with two forms of government issued I.D. just to be safe. But the whole experience begs a much more important question: How do you prove your identity in the world today? Who are you? How do you know? And how do others know?
Identity is a struggle for people in general and for Christians living as dual citizens in the Kingdom of heaven and the realities of the world. Called to live in the world as strangers, aliens and ambassadors; in the world but not of it, living into and out of your identity in Christ is challenging. Add to that struggle the reality that many face by their choice to identify themselves as “southern” or “Ivy League,” “Democrat” or “Republican,” “LGBT,” “pro-life,” “pro-choice,” “feminist.” The ways in which we choose to identify ourselves and the groups with whom we identify tend to warp the larger reality of an identity in Christ, which leaves many people leading lives that are less than God’s best.
The bottom line of David Swanson’s book, Learning to be You, is this: We must understand the nature and character of the God who made us, the God who lives in us, because that is the only valid means of discovering who we are. No other quest for finding yourself is going to lead to the truth of who God is and only when we understand who God is can we know who we are.
The book is full of meat but it is served up in a way that is very easy to digest. Swanson uses illustrations and stories that are personal but not narrowly specific. That enhances the applicability of Learning to be You for pastors, small group leaders and individuals alike.
We all know people who struggle with issues related to identity. Swanson winsomely contends that until people know the One who created them they cannot know themselves. Identity is the issue of our day and Learning to be You is a non-political but acute diagnosis, prescription and life-long experiential learning plan for those who want to know whose they are.
If you know you’re living a lesser life than the one of joy and purpose God created you to live, then read Learning to be You and discover the character and nature of the God in whose image you were created. Get yourself wrapped up in the reality of God and find your identity liberated from many lesser things.
David Swanson is senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Orlando, Fla. Learning to be You is available in paperback and e-reader editions. Published by Baker Books.