It's a sad but all too common thing. For most people the journey to the start-line ends far too late. Yet for those rare souls who discover the shocking truth they are journeying toward, there is the priceless reward of sublime contentment awaiting them at the start-line. It's the journey before the Journey. It's meant to be the shorter of the two journeys. It can be. It should be. Discovering who you are. Andre Agassi reminded me of this.
Dr. F.W. Boreham said, "We make our decisions then our decisions make us." Choices. Sometimes they are made for us. Sometimes they need to be made for us. But there comes a time when we have to start owning our choices in order to be who we really are. When we can, and should, be making the choices that direct our lives, but are deprived from doing so, it causes us to live without integrity. Integrity comes from the word integer - meaning, whole, complete. If you can remember your school maths, a number could be a fraction, or an integer. When we don't (or won't) own our choices, we are a fraction of who we really are.
God wants us to become who we are. He has gifted us with particular opportunities. He has ensured that we are influenced by appropriate teachers. He has placed desires within us that motivate us to meet certain needs within a community. When we are children, we have two great factors shaping who we are. The first factor is the people who serve as our guardians - usually our parents. They make certain choices for us. The second factor is the limitations we are constrained by. A child does not realise who they could become partly because they haven't had enough experiences yet. A child growing up in today's world will probably work for a company that hasn't even started yet, and will probably undertake a job that has not even yet been thought of! Thus, in the meantime, his parents and guardians will make many of his choices for him. By far, most parents will make right/good/wise choices for their children. These benevolently imposed choices shape us as children into who we are becoming.
But there is something else happening in a child that is attempting to shape a child. But this factor is not benevolent (kind and helpful). It drives the child to rebel. It drives the child to despise not just the choices being imposed on them - but also the ones making their choices. I've observed this since my childhood, not just in others, but mostly in me. But I was reminded of this as I read Andre Agassi's autobiography, Open, kindly given to me by Birchalls Bookstore Launceston (before it was released to the public). Andre Agassi describes the first part of his life as a search for who he really was. For the first 15 years of his life he was barely allowed to make any choices for himself. Our choices make us. Andre was not making his choices therefore he did not know he was. When he was sent to a Tennis Academy from the age of 14, he was lonely, confused, and frustrated. He did not want to be there. He did not want to play tennis. He grew his hair long, had it dyed outrageous colours, and given a punk spike. He did this, not to stand out, but "to hide". "I don't know who I am!" was perhaps Andre's defining statement during this period of his life.
At some point, we have to start making our own choices. But before we can, we have to start owning our choices that may be given to us. We may resent the choices imposed on us. Yet, they still make us who we are. God wants us to choose. He wants us to choose the right/good/wise. His choices for our lives might be imposed on us when we are children. Some children may resent their parents for this. Some children also resent God for this. There comes a point in every child of Christian parents when they must choose to make the borrowed faith of their parents their own, or to hand it back. God wants us to freely choose Him, His ways, His will, for our lives.
How do we know which choices are right for us? Some people own the wrong imposed choices. They are beguiled into believing that they are someone they are not. "You're a loser!" "You're an accident!" "You're a mis-fit!" "You were born that way - it's your genetics - and there's nothing you can do about it!" So grossly untrue are these imposed choices upon some people, that those who force them on others are continually battling the truth that -
- every person is precious to God;
- God longs for every person to honour Him with their bodies, minds and souls;
- God has a beautiful purpose for every person that involves serving another;
- we are created to worship the True God within the community of God's people.
For those imposing wrong choices on the vulnerable, they must go to extraordinary lengths to make their case seem remotely plausible. Extraordinary lengths. Legislation must be changed. Primary School curriculums must be developed. Movies must be made. Novels must be written. Songs must be sung. OAMs must be awarded to the 'right' people. Billboards must be erected across Brisbane promoting the blatantly false idea that some people cannot choose to actually be who God has created and designed them to be. Extraordinary lengths. Yet there's always a kid in the crowd who points at the king and whispers, "But he's got no clothes on!" It must frustrate those going to such extraordinary lengths, a similar frustration that the person trying to bail the ocean out with a tea-spoon must experience, when despite their best efforts to impose "you are born to rebel", "All Christians are haters!" "Christianity belongs to a by-gone era!" "All Churches are led by graying, old men, who are out-of-touch with reality!" "The Bible is full of mistakes...it is the opinions of bigoted narrow-minded unenlightened men!" Yet, people continue to discover that God loves them - but loves them too much to be destroyed by the false choices imposed on them. People told that they were "born that way" are discovering that this imposition was never true - something that their deep misery gave them a clue to - and that God can help them to become who they really are. People are discovering that God empowers right choices.
Andre Agassi eventually discovered a glimpse of who he was. It happened around that age of 16. He had already turned to drugs and hard liquor. At least these acts of rebellion allowed him to make choices. But they were the wrong choices. By the age of 36 having achieved what only a handful of people have ever achieved, Andre continued to wonder: Who am I? I wish I could have a few coffees with Andre and talk this through with him. I'd probably mention to him that we have a Creator who wants us to become who we really are by owning then making right/good/wise choices. I'd probably share with him my story. And I'd hope that as I shared he would detect the genuine contentment in my soul that has come from discovering who I am.
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Who are you? What defines you? What choices are you making that are making you. Have you been told that you cannotchoose to be anyone other than who people tell you are? Are being lied to that your 'genetics' make your choices for you and cause you to be dogged by guilt? Choose God. Choose the right/good/wise plan that God has for your life. You'll discover this plan in Romans 12. The choice is yours. If you make the Romans 12 informed choices, you'll become who you realy are. I'd choose to share that with Andre, if I ever had the opportunity. In the meantime, I'd like to share with you, and hope that you might choose to share it someone else.