“What do you do?”
The question is innocent enough. It’s an easy ice breaker when meeting new people. But for some reason, it never sits well with me.
Perhaps I find it difficult to answer. Sure, Marketing and Communications Manager is an easy response, but even that doesn’t say what my day consists of, what I’m good at, or how I got there. Then there’s the fact that my title is just my job, and that there is so much more to me than that.
Yet as professionals this is what we’re supposed to ask one another when we meet. However, if we really want to get to know someone better, we may need to look beyond this initial question. We need to learn to see the person. And even more, before we begin to recognize others’ worth, we must see it in ourselves.
It might be tempting to think that once college is over, with a degree in one hand and a new contract in the other, your identity is set in stone. Take it from someone who’s had different job titles in different industries: placing our identity in what we do is like building a house upon sand.
You know the parable–a man builds his home on unsteady ground and a storm knocks it down. It can be the same for us. If our sense of self is contingent on variable things, then the change in winds could easily throw us into an existential tailspin.
“Who am I? Who am I becoming?”
If we take these questions to the world, it’ll begin to mold us into its own image and likeness. It’ll leave no room for character, individuality, conscience and all the wonderful gifts the Lord has uniquely given each of us.
Interestingly in Matthew 16, it’s Jesus who asks His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”
I can picture the apostles looking at each other quizzically. Jesus, of all people, should know who He is, so this must be a trick question. Far from a trick or a test, Jesus wants to make sure the disciples know who they are. And He wants us to be sure of this as well. It’s not until we know who He is in our lives that we can begin to know ourselves on a deeper level. When Peter proclaimed that Jesus is the Son of God, his own mission and identity were revealed to him.
When we begin to know the Lord and who He is to us, we learn about ourselves:
If He is the Redeemer, then I am redeemed.
If He is the Light of the world, then I am to be a reflection of Him to those around me.
If I am made in His image, then I have been created to be more than what the world says I am.
Who we are neither ends nor begins with our professional status. Even long after college is over, our character continues to be formed. We are still clay and need to allow ourselves to be shaped into who He has created us to be. Not based on just our jobs, but as whole, multidimensional persons. Notice we are called human beings, not human doings.
I had once asked a new colleague, “What makes you, you?” They stared back blankly. Not because they didn’t understand the question, but because they had never thought about it. Typically, others ask them about their alma mater, their degrees, and all their accolades. When I interview new colleagues, I want to know what makes them one of a kind. Most of the time, no one has asked them that before.
It’s a good question to ask ourselves and bring to prayer: Who am I, really? The more we know of our individuality, the greater we can serve those around us.