In the Gospel of John, we are introduced to John the Baptist with this passage. And just preceding the one above comes this series of questions inquiring about his identity: “Are you a prophet?”
“Are you Elijah?”
“Who are you then?”
“I am a voice crying in the wilderness, make straight the paths for the Lord …”
One of the great fathers of analytical psychology, the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung (1875-1961), once said: “The world will ask you who you are. And if you do not know, the world will tell you.”
This week you will be confronted with images and voices attempting to define you, to tell you who you are supposed to be, what you are supposed to do and how badly you want what you do not need.
In the case of John the Baptist, he makes three declarations of who he is not. There are those wanting to make him into their hero. People, perhaps, are interested in making John into something that will tantalize their visions of what might be. But three times, all in quick succession, John is able to state with no hesitation whom he is not.
He knows this because he knows something else even more important: he has come to understand who he is. He understands his role in life is not to be famous or rich, he is not to be the center of attention or the one everybody swoons over or listens to or hopes for. Instead, John the Baptist has realized his role to call attention not to himself but beyond himself. Likely through similar kinds of personal trials and errors that each of us experiences each week, he has learned and grown and finally discovered his role for God’s purposes in his life. Then, as he lives out his purpose, his self-discovery creates purposeful opportunities for and with others.
By understanding what he was and what he was supposed to be doing with what God had given him, he was able to recognize the distractions and delusions that too often sidetrack even the best of us. Stressful situations arise, our lives become complicated, others attempt to impose irrelevant agendas opposed to or in contradiction of what God hopes and dreams for us.
As Jung had recognized in the first half of the twentieth century, voices from the outside can and will be gladly persuasive. Nameless, faceless marketing forces desiring our generous contributions to the causes they so passionately espouse will vie for our utmost attention. But our role in life has less to do with what is outside or what others tell us, and everything to do with what is inside, what God inspires, offers, contributes, and provides. With grateful hearts, discerning minds, and insightful spirits, we are to respond accordingly. May it be so for all of us this week.