Who Am I? – An Ash Wednesday Meditation

“…but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights,  hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor,  in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see — we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor,  yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” – 2 Corinthians 6:4-10

I am a fake!

A hypocrite.

I criticize how others live, even though I do some of the same things I criticize them for…maybe even worse things.

I stand on my soapbox and shout for unity, yet I can’t even get along with my own family.

I spend a lot of time complaining about war and partisan politics, but if anyone disagrees with my beliefs, I am quick to cut ties with them or give them a piece of my mind. I am far from a model of what I proclaim that I should be.

I am an impostor.

I am a nobody.

I’m not someone of great importance.

I don’t tend to draw a lot of attention from others.

I am unnoticed, just background noise being drowned out by a more exciting, more stimulating world. I go about my business from day to day, but does anyone notice? Does anyone care? Am I making any kind of difference? Or am I just a cog in the wheel of the world? I blend in and go through my life unseen, unregarded, silent.

I am not a world changer.

I am unknown.

I am lifeless.

My energy is drained.

I don’t exude confidence and joy. I simply look spent and tired. Too much of my time and resources are used up on pointless ventures.

I waste…so…much.

Where has my vitality gone? When did the excitement for life die? I am not really living, I am just existing…tottering along without a purpose or a fire in my bowels. I am empty. I’ve let all of the spirit and soul drain out of me. I am dry. Thirsty for something…renewal…revival.

I am dying.

I am broken.

I’ve tried so hard to be strong, to appear perfect. But I am not.

I am weak.

I am flawed.

I am beaten and bruised. When I’ve stood up for what I believe in, I’ve been belittled, berated, cut down, bullied. When I run from the truth, I am overcome with guilt and shame.

I am a betrayer.

I cannot run, but I cannot stand. I am too small…too scared…too scarred…too defeated. I am depressed. I am conflicted. I probably appear defeated and powerless.

I am not yet destroyed, but I am punished.

I am sad.

My heart aches for the afflicted and oppressed.

My sorrow overwhelms me.

I do not understand the violence and evil in our world. It breaks me. I weep uncontrollably. Why does so much evil exist? I just don’t understand. So much suffering. So much death. I feel helpless. I feel like giving up…like letting the anguish consume me.

What can I do? Can I even help?

I have very little hope.

I am sorrowful.

I am destitute.

I have nothing of value to speak of.

I can barely pay my bills, let alone give to the needs of others.

I am always so focused on money and my lack of it. I do not have the luxuries that others have. I struggle from week to week, day to day. I have to rely on the kindness of others, sometimes even beg for help.

It is embarrassing, demoralizing. I feel like a lesser person.

I am ashamed. I am naked. I am poor. I have nothing. No integrity. No fame. No life. No freedom. No hope. No resources. I am totally dependent.

I can do nothing on my own.

I am the church.

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Sometimes, I feel like a fake.

I feel like an impostor.

Sometimes, I am a hypocrite, even though it hurts me to admit it. I mess up a lot, and sometimes in front of the watchful eyes of others who take note of all the times I do not practice what I preach.

Even more than all of that, I don’t seem to fit in this world.

I’ve been called an impostor by people around me. And sometimes, I believe what they say about me…here in this world.

But Paul says elsewhere, “Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what was foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what was weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).

Even though I’m treated like an impostor…even though sometimes I’m a fake… in the new creation that is breaking into this one, I am true – because I know the Truth. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Though I’m broken, sinful, a hypocrite, a fake…through Jesus Christ, I am true.

Sometimes, I feel like no one knows me.

I feel like no one really gets me.

Everywhere I go, I look out at the faces, and I wonder if anyone really sees me. Does anyone really know me, or am I just a nobody?

But, tonight I am joining my voice with the psalmist, “O Lord, you have searched me and known me…Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely” (Psalm 139: 1, 4).

Sometimes, I feel lifeless.

I feel used up.

It’s almost like I am a seed leftover in the garden after the last of the harvest. The chill of winter covers over me. The cold surrounds me and I feel shut in. I feel lifeless.

But when the dawn comes and the light shines and the warmth arrives, I know I will find I’m truly alive. Buried with Christ in a death like his, so that I can be joined with him as he rises. Lifeless for a time…and not even completely. Even here and now there is life inside, life that may feel covered over and oppressed, but life. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

I’ve suffered.

And sometimes I still suffer.

I have felt like I was being punished. Sometimes it has been in loneliness so real that I felt like I was in a dungeon, cold and alone. Other times I have endured loss, heartache, pain that even now seems unimaginable.

Sometimes, I feel like my sorrow is bubbling up, and when it overwhelms me, it seems to overflow.

Even in the midst of it, I can hear these words of Scripture echoing, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us…for in hope, we were saved” (Romans 8:18, 24).

It doesn’t make the suffering less real, but even now I have experienced the joy. I have felt it rush over me. And I know that when the kingdom has fully come, my rejoicing will bubble up and overflow. Sometimes it overflows within me even now. But in those moments of pain and suffering, God sustains me.

And when I’ve been given too much to carry, I can fall apart on Jesus.

Sometimes, I’m poor.

I have nothing.

I’m desolate, weak, and pitiable.

But because I am fully known and loved and redeemed, even when I have nothing, I have everything. Even though I have nothing to give, what I do have has made many rich.

I am made true.

I am alive.

I am sustained.

I have everything.

I am the Church.

We are the Church.

***This two-part meditation was originally shared during Ash Wednesday service 2014. Pastor Jeff Fiet wrote the first part of the meditation, which focuses on the negative attributes from 2 Corinthians 6:4-10. Pastor April Fiet wrote the second part of the meditation, which focuses on the positive attributes.

About April Fiet

April is a pastor, wife, mom, and lover of words. She finds inspiration under the big Nebraska skies, in the garden, in the yarn aisle, and in the kitchen. Learn more about April here, and join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.