This fall at the high school in my community, students will explore in workshops the question “Who am I?” – a topic that young people often struggle with as they begin to sort out their place in the world. The aim is to expand appreciation for differences in race, culture, religion, etc., as well as to strengthen school unity.
This can be an enlightening exercise to the degree that it doesn’t inadvertently impress a sense of limitation on identity. There’s a native resistance, I think, to being categorized or potentially objectified based on outward appearance.
I’ve come to find that a truly freeing and expansive way to identify ourselves and others is to think in terms of the qualities we express. Christian Science, which is based on the Bible, has helped me see that qualities such as intelligence, intuition, peace, order, direction, strength, vitality, and integrity are derived from God, the one Spirit and the source of all true individuality. These qualities are inherent in us because we are, in reality, God’s spiritual creation. Each day, I pray to see more of my spiritual identity – and others’ – as the unlimited reflection of God, our unlimited and infinitely good Father-Mother.
During my teen years I struggled with doubt, fear, and uncertainty about being good enough, and I stressed out over my physical appearance. But mental release from these fears and limiting thoughts came when I would spiritualize my concept of true identity. I would affirm that my true essence was spiritual, God’s image and likeness, and that God is the source of all good. Praying in this way, I ultimately found greater peace and happiness – and even, at times, physical healing.
The Bible tells of a boy just 12 years old who already had a remarkable sense of identity, derived from his understanding of his relation to God. He and his family had just been to Jerusalem for Passover, and on the way home his family discovered he wasn’t with the group (see Luke 2:41-49). His parents searched for him. Finally, on the third day, they found him back in Jerusalem, sitting in the Jewish temple among the preeminent religious scholars and rulers of that day, hearing what they had to say and asking them questions. These adults were astonished at the boy’s understanding and answers.
This narrative about the young Christ Jesus concludes this way: “and his mother said to him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said to them, How is it that ye sought me? knew ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Webster’s Bible).
Even at this young age Jesus knew he had a special relation to God, resulting in what was obviously a clear sense of direction and confidence in what he was doing. He was committed to His spiritual calling. At about the age of 30, when Jesus’ public teaching and healing ministry began, he would speak of his relation to his divine Father this way: “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work” and “The Son can do nothing by himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for whatever things he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise” (John 5:17, 19, Webster’s Bible).
While Jesus’ identity as the Son of God was unique, going about our Father’s business, so to speak, can be a model for our own discovery of identity today. We can, in some modest way, begin to understand and appreciate our relation to our Father-Mother, divine Love, as the spiritual reflection of God, the one eternal Mind. Referring to the spiritual nature we each reflect, Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science and founded the Monitor, once wrote: “A dewdrop reflects the sun. Each of Christ’s little ones reflects the infinite One, and therefore is the seer’s declaration true, that ‘one on God’s side is a majority’ ” (“Pulpit and Press,” p. 4).
True identity goes way beyond limiting categories of race and culture and upbringing. Discovering the infinite and ever-present God as the fount of all love, purpose, continuity, and freedom will aid each of us in honing in on our unique talents and better expressing qualities such as compassion, generosity, and honesty. We’ll find more ways we can “be about [our] Father’s business” – and be a blessing to our world.