Many people have spent most of their lives trying to discover who they are. Some have gone through extensive counseling or therapy to search out what makes them tick and how to deal with the less positive components of their natural being. None of us are perfect, after all, and some of us have big quirks that we have to overcome or for which we have to compensate. How do you discover who you are, down deep, when you get below the surface level? How do you get the courage to be real or authentic and allow others to really know the person you really are?
Life begins to present us with identification tags the moment we are born. First, we are someone's child and we are a boy or a girl. Those are two labels each of us wear when we arrive on the planet. Dad and Mom bring us home from the hospital and we are known from that moment forward as the child of our parents. We are also known as either a son or daughter of those people. We wear those nametags for a few years until we begin our public education and then we gain another nametag or two--student, learner, class clown, lazy, smart--names given to us by the people with whom we interact in school. We begin to believe we are the people others say we are because of their importance or influence in our lives. The tags change as we go through the years of schooling depending on what happens in our lives, both good and bad.
Sometimes life's circumstances make us question who are are because we cannot be who or what others think we should be. We may have struggles with the school material we are expected to learn or with our home where we live. We begin to question our own value in comparison to what we think we cannot do or learn as directed by others who are important to our lives. Our inability to do math or to play sports may cause us to doubt our value as human beings. When we discover areas of life at which we can succeed, then suddenly we begin to wear nametags that we never thought we would wear. Who we thought we were changes in light of our new discoveries about ourselves.
This Sunday we are going to confirm four young people during our church service. They have been studying about the Christian faith and about our denomination and local church during the past year. They will be asked to respond to the same questions asked of their parents when they were baptized as infants 12-13 years ago. The questions are not hard ones but they are questions that demand that we reflect upon them to be sure we agree to try to abide by them. The questions ask them to put aside evil and try to follow faithfully in the path that Jesus walked. They are asked to promise to be faithful to our local church and support its ministries. The questions demand thought as to what they may mean to their lives for the future.
In our church and faith tradition, we believe that when a person is baptized, at any age, that person has a new name added to their own name, the name of "Christian" so that there is always another name that follows their own surname, even if the name is not spoken aloud. Baptism marks a person for life with the sign of the cross and designates that one as a follower of Jesus Christ. Baptism is where the Christian journey begins and it does not end until one reaches the grave. So, in addition to these young people being named son, daughter, student, athlete, musician, and various other labels they wear, they are also named Christian. Confirmation is the coming out party announcing to the world that they wear that name and promise to be true to what it means to be a Christian.
It is the responsibility of all of the rest of us who have already made our confessions of faith and have been wearing the nametag marked "Christians" for many years to welcome these new ones into the fold and to let them know that we are here to urge them on and lift them up as they live and grow through the years to come. As was popular to say a few years ago, "It takes a village to raise a child." In the Christian family, it also takes a village, a community, a loving family of faith to surround each new one and guide them in the way that will lead them to what God has prepared for them for their future. That is how we continue to tell them again and again who they are---they are Christians, on the journey of life with others who are part of their family and who bear the same name.