What are you? How you answer that question determines the fate of your eternal soul, so you might want to think about it for a minute or two. I will give you some time to formulate your answer.......
I believe most people would answer the question I have asked above by telling me what they do for a living. For example, if I ask you what you are you will likely respond by telling me you are a doctor, a lawyer, a career politician, an overpaid bureaucrat or a janitor. In other words, you define who and what you are by what you do. That seems to be a common practice these days and it is, I believe, a dangerous precedent.
The front page of the Denver Post from Sunday, January 17th had one of the saddest headlines I have read in quite some time. The headline said, "I am a skier" and the sub-headline was "Forsberg, 15, returns to the slopes for the first time since April crash." The story that followed told the depressing tale of a 15 year old girl named Kailyn Forsberg who was an up-and-coming star in something called "slopestyle skiing." As a result of a botched flip maneuver she attempted last April at Copper Mountain she is a paraplegic today. Last month she returned to the ski slopes for the first time since her accident, fully equipped with a ski-sled used by people who can no longer use their legs.
Here is what the story said about that day, "On a windy and cold morning in the mountains, family and friends gathered for a ski day that could have gone two ways for Kailyn Forsberg's return to the snow. If the falls proved too plentiful and painful to body and ego, she might have shed her lifelong identity as a skier. Or, if the turns rekindled a dormant but unextinguished flame, the soon to be 16 year old would reconnect with the sport she loves even though it robbed her of so much."
I can just imagine the scene. Family, friends and various media-types gathered for a classic feel-good moment in which an injured teenager returned to the sport that destroyed her legs and ability to ski. I can just see the tears of joy streaking the faces of her parents as she stumbled down the bunny slope, crashing all along the way. The report continued, "Oh, she fell Saturday. Over and over. Each time she pitched into the snow, she shook with laughter." The reporter recorded her response to the event as she exclaimed, "I love it! I am a skier!"
I am afraid I do not share Kailyn's enthusiasm for her predicament. Let me tell you why. I have a hard time getting emotionally involved when 15 year old girls tell me they have been doing something "all of their lives." At the very most Kailyn has been skiing for 10-12 years. That is not much time in the lifespan of the average human being. I find if rather offensive when kids talk that way, especially when many of the adults surrounding them have truly dedicated their entire lives to some cause or purpose (frequently including raising their kids), often to no public fanfare whatsoever. The people who gathered to watch the pathetic spectacle of a paraplegic skier coming down the slopes, crashing all along the way, were doing so in the hope that she would not "shed her lifelong identity as a skier." Apparently they were all overjoyed when Kailyn pronounced that she is still a skier. I have news for you Kailyn. You are not a skier. You are a cripple.
Does what I wrote seem harsh to you? It shouldn't. I am just telling the truth and sometimes the truth is hard to hear and digest. Kailyn will never ski again. Continuing to live in a fictional world in which she is told by all those around here, as well as by herself, that she is a skier is ridiculous, absurd and harmful. Nobody ever makes any progress in life when they dedicate themselves to rewriting history and living in make-believe worlds that they prefer to the harsh truths of the real world. Kailyn will only make progress as a human being when she embraces her disability and moves on, ceasing to fruitlessly attempt to rekindle the old feelings she had derived from her previous skiing experiences. Still, the Welsh motto is live and let live. She, and her friends and family, are free to do whatever they want to do. What I am offering is just the opinion of a mad Welshman who has never been a paraplegic.
My response to Kailyn's story, as well as the hundreds of similar tales told every day, is sadness. I see people desperately attempting to hold on to something they were in the past, rather than going forward to become what they are in the present. Even more profoundly sad is the fact that people like Kailyn define themselves by what they do rather than who they are. She is not alone in that malady. Practically everyone I know suffers from the same ailment. Everyone defines himself by what he does rather than what he is.
What you do changes every day. Most people will go through three or four career changes throughout their lifetimes. Do that mean they change who they are three or four times over their lives? Even those who stay in the same career are not performing that career with the same skill and effectiveness over time. In the early years the lack of experience inevitably means the person will not be as skilled at what he does as he will be later, when experience has honed his abilities. Then, as old age and infirmity set in, those finely honed skills will begin to deteriorate. Does that mean a person should be defined initially as an inexperienced human being, then later as a highly skilled practitioner and, finally, as a decrepit nincompoop? I don't think so.
I would like to propose that we who claim to be human beings stop describing ourselves by what we do and, instead, define ourselves by what we are. That, of course, opens a new can of worms. Just what, exactly, am I? Or, more precisely, of all of the things I am, which one defines me? I began this blog post by declaring that your answer to the question above will determine the fate of your eternal soul. I am now prepared to demonstrate why that is true.
Every person is many things, depending upon the context, but only one thing really matters. Let me cut to the chase. You are either a Christian or you are not. That is the only thing that matters. What I just wrote is so important I will write it again. When you think about what you are, only one thing matters. Either you are a Christian or you are not. Everything else follows from that one simple distinction.
When I say you are either a Christian or you are not I do not mean what most people mean by 'Christian' these days. I do not mean someone born in the Socialist Democracy of Amerika is a Christian. I do not mean that cult members like Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses are Christians. Being a good Protestant, I do not include Catholics under the mantle of Christian either. (To be fair, if they are consistent with their theology the Catholics would exclude me also.) I go so far as to exclude most people who call themselves Evangelical Christians as well because the God they claim to worship bears little resemblance to the God of historic Christianity. If you want to know what a Christian is, read something written by old dead guys like Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Owen, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, John Gill, William Cunningham, Richard Dabney, B.B. Warfield, A.W. Pink, Louis Berkhof, John Stott or J.I.Packer. That should give you a pretty good idea about what a real Christian is.
All Christians will spend the overwhelming percentage of their total life spans in the Eternal State, living in the New Jerusalem in the personal presence of the triune God. Everyone else will spend eternity in the Lake of Fire. It matters not what your career was during this life. It does not matter if you were a skier or a skater. It does not matter if you were famous or unknown. It does not matter if you were rich or poor. There is only one thing that matters. Were you a Christian? If you were, you will live. If you were not, you will die. Kailyn needs to stop falsely telling herself that she is a skier and consider the far more important issue in her life. Is she a Christian? All of those who tenaciously cling to the activities of this life, and define themselves accordingly, need to consider what I have written.