Who are you?
It’s such a simple question, but the answer is often complicated and varied depending on who we may be talking to at any given moment. For example, if it is one of my sons’ friends, I am Chris or Vincent’s mom. If it is someone who was affiliated with my late parents I am Jeff or Jackie’s daughter. If it is a professional inquiry, I lead with a job title such as freelance writer, author, music teacher, tennis coach etc…However, I cannot recall a single time I ever began my bio with the myriad of things I am not.
For one thing, I do not have that level of humility. When someone asks us who we are, especially in a professional situation, I think there is a natural tendency to launch into a 30-second elevator speech in order to establish some common ground with the other person and to define our role in the grand scheme of things. We hand over a business card, rattle off the highlight reel of our accomplishments and use buzzwords so that others see us in the best possible light because heaven forbid anyone have a perception of us that is different from the carefully crafted image we have of ourselves.
But what if just once, we dropped the pretense and began our monologue with who we are not? Would others find our honesty refreshing or would they become so uncomfortable with our humanity that they would try and assign roles to us that we don’t belong in. When the priests and Levites invite John the Baptist to tell them something about himself, he gets right to the crux of their question and tells them what they really want to know: He is not the messiah they are looking for. While he may be a great many things, he doesn’t use this moment as a marketing opportunity. He tells them he is not a prophet. He is not Elijah. He is merely a lone voice who chooses to look ahead and not in the mirror while inviting everyone to channel their focus where we should…beyond ourselves.