Josh Raymond, on a recent episode of The Inner Life, recalled a story from his freshman year of high school when he and his classmates were tasked with giving speeches for their public speaking class. Josh had chosen to speak about the assassination of JFK and his assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald.
In preparation, Josh meticulously practiced his speech in such a way that he did not reveal the name of JFK’s killer until the very end for dramatic effect. When the day of his speech arrived, Josh felt very confident. He went up to the front of the class, documented the days leading up to the assassination, the assassination itself, the chase, the capture, and the ultimate death of Lee Harvey Oswald at the hands of Jack Ruby. Josh concluded his speech and returned to his seat. His classmates began asking him, “You were talking about Lee Harvey Oswald, right?”
Josh realized that though he had purposely omitted Oswald’s name throughout the speech for effect, he had also completely forgotten to give his name at the end for clarification. But regardless of his mistake, the class still knew who he was referring to.
“With somebody famous – or infamous – like that, with only a few key clues, it’s easy to determine their identity. We don’t have to know much to identify that person,” said Josh.
But while looking outward at others is one thing, looking inward is an entirely different experience. Examining one’s motives, goals, and relationships can often give way to doubts or uncertainty about who we are. Who are we in this world? What do we have to offer? In what or whom are we placing our identity? And can we even identify ourselves based on the clues we’re leaving?
Father Craig DeYoung joined The Inner Life to discuss our Christian identity as beloved sons and daughters of God, and why we can rely on that identity to fulfill all other aspects of our lives.
Identity has been a concept heavily under fire in recent years due to gender and identity politics, which strip identity down to the most basic physical attributes of a person like their race, gender, or occupation, and determine things about someone based on that. In a way, identity has become a sort of impersonal currency that you can use to buy favor or advantage over others. And while those aspects do give some information about a person, identity is so much more.
Our person cannot wholly be decided by our 1-dimensional features. You can tell more about a person by their relationships: the quality of their friendships, the deepness of their love, their devotion to God, their loyalty to and support of their family, etc. Most of the time, it’s very difficult to reach those recesses of a person’s heart in the office or in passing.
Josh and Father Craig talked about the value of enjoying a meal with another person when it comes to truly getting to know a person and their identity. We see this when two people express romantic interest in one another. Very often, one of the first dates is going out to dinner together. At some point the small talk questions run out, and a meal together is the perfect vehicle for asking those deeper questions.
Or when two people need to discuss a pertinent issue or catch up after a long time, they will very often grab coffee together. It introduces the casual activity of consuming something together to a situation that might be awkward or tense. It informalizes the process of learning about another person and letting another person learn about us. And we learned this practice from Jesus Himself. Many times, we saw Jesus eating with sinners and tax collectors, attending a wedding with His friends, and breaking bread with His apostles. And every time, the apostles delved even deeper into the identity of Jesus.
And our very core as Christians, that’s the goal. When we meet somebody new or take somebody out to dinner, we ask them questions about themselves, but while we’re learning about them, we’re learning about God’s place in their life. As sons and daughters of God, our universal identity is as Christ’s “beloved”. The word beloved is telling us that we are loved, but it also presupposes that there is someone completing the act of loving us. To better understand ourselves, we should learn to better understand God.
Naturally, as human beings, we have desires and needs that we seek to fulfill. And naturally, as faulted creatures, we sometimes seek to fulfill those desires and needs with the contents of this world: luxury, material possessions, financial wealth, and pleasure. But, as God’s beloved creatures who are meant for so much more, if we seek the truth, we will drift away from the things of this world and toward the things of the next.
Tune in to The Inner Life weekdays at 11am CT