Who are you, really? Before you answer, consider this: are you your thoughts, even those you are thinking right now?
Psychologists, philosophers, and theologians suggest that knowing who we are is one of the most important questions in a person’s life. Most people are unable to answer because they don’t know exactly what or who is this thing called “self.” Some understand a great deal about the world: they can parent children blindfolded; mastermind the best smartphones and innovative social media; look at the sky and give an accurate weather forecast; yet not understand or know who they are.
Whether we describe ourselves as professors, pastors, or peace officers, these are just labels. As important as labels are, they are not who we really are. If we change our religion, country, profession, or political affiliation, that does not change who we are, because we are more than the places where we were born or the things we do.
Those who know who they are have no reserves or plan B.
We are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26, 27). But what does this mean? In our English dictionaries the word “image” means a physical likeness, optical counterpart, or appearance produced by reflection from a mirror. It describes a mental representation, or resemblance to another. Thus, because we are created in the image of God, we resemble/reflect Him.
Being created in the image of God means more than physical look-alikeness. For instance, like Him, we are the only creatures who have the ability to think abstractly, to put ideas into words, to know the difference between right and wrong. We are among the few creatures to think in cause-and-effect relationships, to recognize and remember. We have emotions and passions, exercise patience, and have freewill to make decisions and choices based on intellect and spirituality. But because of the presence of sin, we are only God’s shadows in all these.
Speaking of shadow: because of our condition, being born in sin and raised in iniquity, we’ve become mere shadows of the image of God. As humanity came from God’s hand, it “bore no blight of decay or shadow of the curse.”* Christ, our Creator, and Christ alone, can make us truly aware of who we are. He redeems, re-creates, and restores the original image of God in us when we accept Him as our personal Savior.
Life could be a banquet. But people, even Christians, starve to death because they don’t know who they are. And if they don’t know who they are, they can’t figure out whose they are.
Those who know who they are have no reserves or plan B. They rely totally on faith and prayer, believing that God has their back. They have no regrets because they know that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). They have no cowardly retreats. They stand fast and firm in the face of challenges, accepting them as opportunities to be transformed into the likeness of Christ and restored from a shadow to the original image of God.
* Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1956), p. 9.
Hyveth Williams is a professor at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University.