Originally posted August 22, 2011, at A Constant Stream of Grace. Republished with permission of the author.
It’s interesting that Jesus, in Matthew 16, asks his disciples, “Who do people say I am?” Is he really interested in the local gossip? Is he taking the political temperature? Does he want to know if his messages are clear enough?
I’ll never know his reasoning, but it does make me think about how I do the same thing.
I wonder what people are saying about me when I’m not around and whether it’s flattering. I wonder what people take away from my conversation. I wonder if people hear in my sermons what I mean for them to hear.
I wonder what people think of me; whether I’m a good pastor, wife, mother, sister, daughter, aunt, daughter-in-law, friend. Sometimes I ask them, too. Then when they tell me, I wonder, “Are they telling me the truth?”
There’s nothing unusual in that. Perhaps we all wonder.
The danger comes in using that wondering and feedback as a determination for my own self-worth, or worse yet, my identity. Dangerous because my sense of myself becomes dependent upon what others think or say about me, or even what I think about myself. If people say positive things, I’m up, and if they say negative things, I’m down. If I’m having a “bad day,” I feel worthless.
I don’t know why Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” but I do know that he didn’t use that feedback to build himself up or to tear himself down. He didn’t talk to himself with the same kind of self-doubt I’m prone to. Rather, he went away to quiet places to pray and reconnect himself with the God of the vast universe. He listened to the still, small voice that spoke his identity at his baptism, “You are my son, my beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
Scripture tells us that’s our identity, too. We’ve been grafted onto the tree of life and given the genealogy of the beloved son. Does it matter what others say about you? Not so much. Draw your strength from the rock from which you were hewn.
Find a link to Laura Holck’s entry on the blog A Constant State of Grace at Lutheran Blogs.