“Who Am I”? That’s a difficult question.
I can detail my education, training, and professional experience, and list my degrees;
but that is not really what is most important. It’s all “just straw blowing in the wind.”
Education and Experience
I once attended a spiritual retreat that asked participants to answer the get acquainted question, “Who am I?” without referring to degrees, awards, or professional status. I liked that. But, of course, those are the very sorts of things most people want to know.
Very briefly: After Bakersfield Community College I earned my Bachelors in Literature and/or Speech from West Texas State University, a Masters degree in Counseling Psychology from the University of Santa Clara, a Masters in Religion from Pepperdine University, a Masters in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Ministry from Fuller Seminary with an emphasis in Pastoral Care. At a much later date I completed the Anglican (think Episcopal) Studies Program at Iliff School of Theology. I also did a nine-month Chaplain Residency at Saint Anthony’s Hospital while in Denver. Most of my adult life I pastored Church of Christ, Mennonite, Episcopal, and Ecumenical Catholic Communion churches.
I have also been a cotton chopper, a peach picker, a grape packer, a janitor, a school teacher (including in a facility for juvenile offenders), and a therapist. Also, I have published, and even taught a little, but I assure you that I am no scholar––but then most scholars are not scholars either. Therefore, I have an important suggestion for you, which gets back to the opening sentence above. In all your reading, listening, and viewing I suggest you follow the advice of the fifteenth century Augustinian monk, Thomas à Kempis, and pay more attention to what is said rather than who said it.
Although my work, educational, and professional experiences have been important in shaping my life, it is my family that has played the greater part in forming who I have become. This, of course, includes not only my family of origin, of which I am now the lone survivor, but our two children Don and Carolyn, as well as our four grandchildren––Dashiell, Autumn, Asher, and Camille. Beyond these simple and inadequate acknowledgements I can say what I have found is that every moment and every experience is an opportunity to participate personally in the mysterious reality of God––Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
In Real Time
As for responding directly to the question: “Who am I?” I can only answer that I am an old man attempting to live, as best I can, a monkish life in the small coastal city of Encinitas, companioned by my wise and lovely wife Brenda and Jack (our Queensland / Catahoula mix); and, that I have found no better answer to the question, “Who am I?”, than the one offered by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in a poem he wrote from prison shortly before his martyrdom.
Who Am I?
by Deitrich Bonhoeffer
Who am I? They often tell me
I stepped from my cell’s confinement
Calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
Like a Squire from his country house.
Who am I? They often tell me
I used to speak to my warders
Freely and friendly and clearly,
As though it were mine to command.
Who am I? They also tell me
I bore the days of misfortune
Equably, smilingly, proudly,
like one accustomed to win.
Am I then really that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I myself know of myself?
Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
Struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat,
Yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
Thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
Tossing in expectation of great events,
Powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
Weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
Faint, and ready to say farewell to it all.
Who am I? This or the Other?
Am I one person today and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
And before myself a contemptible woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army
Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?
Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine!