Who am I?

It used to be that every soap opera and sitcom TV show could only remain on the air if they followed a prescribed formula. For instance, there should be at least one episode with an Evil Twin. There should also be an episode where the main characters get trapped somewhere (locked inside a freezer or stranded in a remote cabin during a storm) where they can reminisce over a series of flashbacks.

Another required plotline was the Amnesia Dilemma. I saw it happen to MaryAnn on Gilligan’s Island and Luke on the Dukes of Hazzard and Michelle from Full House. Even Alf, the puppet/alien from the TV show Alf, suffered from severe memory loss after an electrical shock. Most of them were able to regain their memory with another well-placed hit on the head, but until the therapeutic blow was applied comedy ensued.

Growing up, I lived in fear that I would fall victim to amnesia. I thought it was a given, just a matter of time. I assumed I would get knocked in the head (most imagined scenarios involved my older sister as the perpetrator) and I would look around at once-familiar faces and ask, “Who am I? Why am I here?”

I never imagined that amnesia might actually happen without any head-cracking. I never would’ve thought that one day I might look around and ask the same questions: “Who am I? Why am I here?” But that is a possible byproduct of adulthood. There are times when, though with a fully (relatively-speaking) operational mind, I question my identity.

I get caught up in my roles—someone’s wife, someone’s mother, someone’s daughter, someone’s sister, someone’s employee, someone’s friend—and I start to lose myself in the process. I become not just a mom, but a mom to a great student or an average athlete or the woman the preschool calls about her child’s “biting problem.” My identity gets tangled up in their identities. My worries and hopes reflect their worries and hopes. These things pile up, layer after layer, on top of me until I’m unrecognizable even to myself.

If I scrub away all of these extras—the genuine and the counterfeit—and I stand bare-footed and alone, who am I? I’m offered a real and lasting identity through my relationship with an amazing God. Whether I always feel it or not, I am loved and accepted (Ephesians 1:6). I am forgiven (Colossians 1:14). I am fearless (2 Timothy 1:7). I am chosen (Colossians 3:12). I am complete (Colossians 2:10).

These are the descriptions I want to illustrate the real me. They aren’t contingent on my intellect, my weight, my fashion sense, or my bank account. It may require a mighty blow to my head, but I am ready to have some sense knocked into me. I’m ready to truly know who I am.

Fast Pass

During the week of Fall Break, my family and I went to the place where dreams come true: Orlando, Florida. We spent five days at Walt Disney World and 2 days (give or take) at Universal Studios. (Thanks to Hurricane Matthew, or at least the threat of Hurricane Matthew, we spent 24 hours hunkered down in our hotel on Friday. Then we rose early Saturday morning to squeeze in a few more hours at the park before our flight out of town.)

This trip was just one more way to Americanize our African-born son. He saw ordinary people lined up to get signatures of other ordinary people dressed up as famous movie characters. He saw able-bodied 8-year olds being pushed in strollers. And with the Disney meal plan, he got a dessert with every meal. Fame, food, and easy living, brother, that’s what we’re all about!

For our 5-year old, the most maddening part of the trip was the lines. He loved the rides and the shows and the general atmosphere, but those lines! The planners of the parks usually try to make the lines tolerable. They often add fans, interactive games, and television screens. Sometimes, they even make the lines snake around cool set pieces, preparing you for the ride you will eventually board. But a 45-minute wait is still a 45-minute wait and to a 5-year old it might as well be a month.

This is especially true when said 5-year old needs to go to the bathroom. Like, hypothetically-speaking, when he tells you that he needs to pee after you have spent half an hour waiting to make a daring escape with Harry Potter through a series of goblin-guarded bank vaults but he doesn’t tell you he needs to go until you are almost there so you tell him to hold it which he does until just after the ride is over and now he is standing in the middle of a scale replica of Hogsmeade village with wet britches and no extra clothes so his mom goes in to a shop and buys the only pants available—a pair of Harry Potter pajamas—which he will wear the rest of the day sans underwear.

There are times when you are given the opportunity to get permission to move to the front of the line. At Disney World this is called a Fast Pass. It is an ingenious way to teach kids about the “haves” and “have-nots”. When you have a Fast Pass, you practically jog down the short line to step in front of the suckers who are suffering from heat stroke as they wait to climb on the ride. When you don’t have a Fast Pass, you see those arrogant jerks looking fresh as a daisy and walking right on the ride without even stopping for a minute and you try not to hate them. Voila: Empathy education. (Beware: The Fast Pass mentality can really get in your head. I found myself wanting to get a Fast Pass for the bathroom and the restaurant lunch lines.)

Waiting in lines at an amusement park is a lot like life. You spend most of your time doing the mundane and boring—emptying the dishwasher and folding towels—waiting and dreaming and counting down the minutes until the precious, magical seconds will finally arrive. It’s not unusual to work for hours for a meal that will last 15 minutes or plan and prepare for days for a 2-hour birthday party. This is how life often feels, mostly cloudy with sporadic rainbows.

What if we take at least a few of those mundane moments and make them a different brand of magical and precious? What if we turn off our cell phones and tell our kids a story or play rock-paper-scissors with them instead? What if magical moments can occur in places outside of Orlando like the grocery store or the front porch? They don’t have to be documented. They don’t have to be planned. They don’t have to cost more than the price of your time and attention. Don’t Fast Pass the commonplace. They may be the ride you didn’t know you’re waiting for.