Many years ago I read an article in which an author discussed a theory he had that as we get older life strips things away from us and finally leaves only the very core of who we are. He contrasted two of his elderly relatives, one of whom was a crotchety, demanding, unpleasant old woman. The other, also an old woman, was patient, gentle, kind and affirming of others. His theory was that the contrasting qualities of those two ladies had been the kind of people they were all along down at the bedrock of their souls. He felt that as these women aged, the process had stripped away all the masks and layers they had put on top of who they really were and laid bare the real core of the person. One proved to be selfish and demanding, the other kind and gentle. In the case of Ronald Reagan he was also stripped down to the core of his personality, and what was left, according to his daughter, was a gracious, kind, grateful and humble man.
Suppose the theory is true and that as I age all the layers that have built up in my person over the years are going to be stripped away until all that is left is the very essence of who I am. What will that be? What is the essence of my being and my character? What will be left when all the stuff that has accreted on top of my true person has been ground away by time? Whether that happens in this life or not, it will most certainly occur at some point when in the presence of God our true nature is revealed in the glaring light of judgment. And though others may not see it, in a sense it is already happening for “God looks on the heart.” He already sees our real nature as it is.
So who am I? Not “what is the image, the persona I strive so ardently to present to the world”? But rather, who am I when no one else sees? Who am I in the dark recesses of my heart and my thoughts that only God and I know about? No pretense, no posturing, no masks, just the real me. Even asking the question raises a corollary: who do I wantto be? What am I aiming at as a core character? So much of our focus and energy tends to be on surviving. Life comes at us with constant demands and seems at times to go by at a blinding pace. We feel like we must hustle just to get by and meet the minimum demands and standards. We see so many threats to our personal security, identity and sense of well-being and we work hard at protecting ourselves. What gets lost are those huge questions about who we are and who we are seeking to become.
Each of us must answer those questions for himself or herself. It seems to me that it is important to take time to consider them. At some point we most surely will be revealed for who we are in God’s presence. And in a sense we reveal it every day through our actions. It is possible that some day in this world all pretense will be stripped away and our true person will be laid bare for all to see whether we want that to happen or not. It happened to Ronald Reagan. It doesn’t take much time for me to remember again what I most want in those moments. I want the Spirit of Jesus to be revealed as the true person that I am. I would like people to encounter a Rick Myatt who is a lot like Jesus, because He is most characterized by gentleness, humility, love, forgiveness, grace, goodness and courage. How crucial it is to remember that if this is what I want to be come that day when all is revealed, then I’d best make it my focus and my character today.