Most of us who are living to a certain stage of life would always self-ask two questions. The first one is ‘Who am I?’ which is the recognition of self-identity. We unconsciously put on different masks because of the need or the change in the environment, but it may incur the loss of the ‘Real me.’ “Who am I?’ is not only the outer identity but is an inner ‘being.’ The second question is ‘What am I doing?’ Along with the past, life becomes routine; no matter in good times or bad times, we may only focus on ‘gain or loss instead of the meaning and core value behind it, which we may call the ‘primal intention.’ I believe whatever works, either a ‘secular’ job or ‘full-time ministry,’ we would discover this phenomenon, especially when our body and heart are totally exhausted.
After I had changed my secular job to full-time ministry, I discovered this perplexity as a missionary for more than 13 years. Some church members or supporters admired or even ‘envied’ my bravery to serve in the mission field, especially in those third countries, for admonishing the local community. They might expect I would accomplish a ‘big thing’ for God’s kingdom. A bright and shiny ‘halo’ on my head. During my furlough, they might expect to hear a spectacular sharing that unconsciously made me under pressure to share what they wanted to hear instead of the naked reality.
On the contrary, another extreme was to ‘magnify’ the problems in the field so they might feel sorry for me of the tough time or the hardship/labor for the Lord. When I had settled down on the field, living in ups and downs gradually became ‘predictable’ normal such as language learning, weather and environment adjustment, traffic, taboos, and the like. If the ministry was comparatively administrative, it might easily become routine without many drastic ‘spiritual warfare’ occurrences. My duties in the field included administration, development projects, serving the local church in cooperation with pastors and leaders, university students, dormitory supervision and pastoral cares, etc.. that I had been through for about 2 to 3 years, and most of the difficulties and tensions were similar to that in Hong Kong. The big difference was WHY God put me into the field and WHAT was the impact on me and the locals? Hence this incurred the TWO questions for my introspection.
The Bible says, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you”; this is a process to discover the ‘Real me.’ Was my motive based on the biblical teachings? What I said was for people’s applaud or even against my conscience? Did I really believe what I had taught to others? Or, ultimately, I might put on a mask to protect myself and attain what I wanted. Subsequently, I might turn the question ‘Who am I?’ into ‘Who am I before God?’. I lived and served in a foreign land on behalf of His Name for more than a decade as a missionary, so I might conclude that ‘I am a sinner that God embraces, and I am a servant God loves. I need to confront SIN daily wherever it may come from the flesh, the world, or Satan. How I could overcome it if it was not by God’s grace. The second question mentioned is to introspect the core values and relationships concerning people and work. ‘Does it worth it?’ is probably the reflection of the encounter, especially things that kept happening again and again. I might become numb and forget my primary intention but just wish to make it ‘work’ smoothly. Lord Jesus says I need to bear my cross to follow Him. That is the vision He has given us (no one is the same). Lord’s prayer states, “Your kingdom come; you will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” I learn to understand God’s will through failures, so I need to humble myself to serve Him instead of aiming at my own achievement. It doesn’t mean that it is an excuse for the mistake I’d made, but the opposite to let myself be courageous to step forward because I frankly know that God will disciple those He loves. The process was painful, but it made clear what is my motive and attitude. Relating to people, I need to learn to submit my judgment, self-righteousness, and competition to the Lord, which are the whole-life lesson for me. Lord Jesus is gentle and humble to face man’s sin and challenges instead of power and position. I deeply felt the gracious love of God and became more comprehensive in knowing ‘Who am I?’. A life that treats God as God is the focal point of life. If we don’t have the life of God, our life might always be dragged into this question. When we deal with work or people, it is the disclosure of our core values; do we value the life that God creates? Is our heart with Jesus’ heart? Is our fruit of the Holy Spirit good? I am so grateful for God’s calling me to know Him more at different stages of life. Psalm 139 shows how the poet presents his fear and understanding of God. I would like to echo verses 23 & 24 to reflect on my sharing “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting”.