Who am I? Why am I here? As a hospice chaplain, these are questions I seek to have patients for whom I help provide care answer for themselves in the most vulnerable time of their life. However, they are questions I believe we need to be asking of ourselves throughout our life, not just in our dying days. God told the prophet, Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” In Psalm 139, David prays to God, “For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”
The great clergyman Harry Emerson Fosdick once dealt with this question of who you and I are in God’s eyes. His argument is compelling and affirming.
Fosdick noted that, “The more we know about any subject, the less we think in terms of the general and the more we think in terms of the specific. For example, let’s suppose my car breaks down. I open the hood and I stare at a mass of wires, rubber and metal - - none of which mean anything to me. I don’t know anything about cars, so when I look under the hood, it is all one big blob. But a trained mechanic will look under the hood of my car and he or she will not see a blob or a mass. The mechanic will see the carburetor and the fuel pump, and will reach into a part of the motor that I do not even see and tighten a connecting wire. You see, the more you know about cars, the less you think in terms of the blob, the mass, and the more you think about individual parts.”
Now, think of God. God has five billion children on this planet. That’s a lot. When God looks at humanity, does God see a faceless blob? Of course not. God, who is the Source of all knowledge, does not see the general. God sees the specific.
We know how this works. Remember the small boy in Syria who was found alive in the rubble of the bombing that killed his family? Who can ever forget his face? Before that, for most of us, the victims of the horrible civil war in Syria were just a faceless blob. Now we have a face. We know more, we understand more, we feel some of the pain.
God knows him; God knows each refugee, each homeless person, each prisoner – each person who has, is, or ever will walk on this planet. Who am I? Who are you? I/you are a child of God, created in the very image of God, who is love.
Why are we here? John Gardner, founding chairman of Common Cause, tells of a cheerful old man who asked a question of just about every new acquaintance he fell into conversation with: “What have you done that you believe in and for which you are proud?” He never asked the conventional question, “What do you do for a living?”
The Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians, “For we are what God made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”
As we go about our daily lives, may we always be asking these questions, “Who am I and why am I here?”