By Sharon Wada
Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, "Who do people say I am?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets." "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"
Mark 8:27-29, NIV
Isn’t it fascinating that as Jesus was going about everyday life with his disciples, he asked them, “Who do people say I am?” I wonder what he was hoping to evoke in his disciples? They responded with the range of opinions they had heard from the people living around them. And then, Jesus probed, “Who do you say I am?” What do you actually think from your lived experience of me?
This conversation is not unlike what I hear when I sit with people in spiritual direction. They voice the narratives constructed from their church experiences about who God is. It’s as if they are responding to Jesus asking them this question, “Who does your church community say that I am?” Thus, they begin to put words to the beliefs they carry, or they think they are supposed to carry. Often, I hear hesitation in their voices, sometimes a more obvious unease, and always a longing for something more.
I believe the longing for something beyond church doctrine and communal practice, the hunger for more, is God given. Church practice certainly plays a part in shaping our spirituality, but it can’t the only thing we rely on.
So, as I sit with folks in spiritual direction, and I hear the longing for more, at some point I will ask the question, “What would you like your relationship with God to be like?” The answers I hear are beautiful and inspiring:
“I would like to experience God as saturating all of my life. Whether I’m getting kids ready for school or interacting with co-workers, I want some sense that God is present in it all.”
“I want to be so connected to God, that at any point, I can simply pause and feel the silent connection, like two long-time, loyal friends, who know each other so well and have weathered so much of life together, that simply making eye contact, a shared glance, is more than enough.”
What if Jesus’ questions are inviting us to re-examine the narratives we’ve been carrying about who he is, and how the Christian journey is lived out?
Consider for yourself:
What has held true for you over time?
What have you outgrown?
What do you yearn for, in your experience of God and in communal connections?
I love that God isn’t concerned about any confusion or contradictions, completely at ease with my questions. I especially feel His full attention in times of solitude, and in spiritual direction. These are the spaces where I can access my authentic, honest response to Jesus’ question, “But what about you? Who do you say I am?”
As I put words to my inner truth, I exhale, and relax into the interior freedom of being real with God. I experience the love of God and the encouragement to live out another day with questions, curiosity, and holding the mystery of life.