Do You Know Who You Are?

Ishnita Nayantara Keskar   |   January 26, 2024 

“Do you know who you are?
Do you know what's happened to you?
Do you want to live this way?” 

 When I first heard this dialogue from Grey’s Anatomy, it resonated with an ache from long ago. "Where are you from?" is the first and most expected question when meeting someone new. For me, this has been one of the most difficult questions I have encountered. With a family that intermarried several generations ago, we have lost all regional affiliations.

Through time, I have found this loss to be profound in a country like ours. Regional affiliation in India doesn’t mean just a place or a city; it also means a culture, a language, food, and people. In addition to this loss, I was raised in a faith that didn’t fit the majority. Being the only Christian girl from my batch, even in a Christian school, was quite alienating sometimes. The festivals didn’t fit, the church setting was too unfamiliar, and most children had a very Western idea about Christianity in their minds.

My whole experience is well summarised in an unforgettable interaction with a friend in school. When my friend learned I was a Christian in junior school, she said, “Oh! Then why are you living in India? Shouldn’t you be living in London?” She was also curious to know if my mother wore dresses and if we baked a lot of cakes!! That question threw me in greater confusion because my grandfather, who was divorced from my grandmother, did reside in London, and my father, who had trained in baking and confectionery, baked cakes quite often. But my mother, no, she has never worn dresses in my entire life!

In my growing years, I surpassed these issues since the societal focus was more on education. I dodged the questions many times and would laugh about my mixed background, but I also realized how important it was for people to place me. We love to know where people are from because it helps us connect them to existing information about communities and cultures.

The past few years have been different. Due to some critical things happening around me, the historical background of my family became deeply important to me. I kept looking to know more, but what I was intently searching for was my own identity in the process. Unfortunately, the more I have engaged in this search, the more displaced I find myself to be.

There is a deep longing to belong, and yet I find I do not belong. Currently, this struggle is amplified by the lack of a successful career in the eyes of the world. This is sprinkled with the fine dust of the constant struggles of a wife, a young mother, and an incompetent homemaker. Maybe this is the perfect recipe for a mid-life crisis?!

If you ever have the chance to hear someone’s life story, you will realize that people highlight and gloss over some aspects and skip through others. It tells a lot about what they hold dear and what they dislike. The narration strongly communicates how they view themselves, their life, and the details.

The story we tell about ourselves is deeply interwoven with the story we believe about ourselves. This belief about ourselves stems from our understanding of our Creator, our world, our philosophies, and our doctrine about life and death. What we understand about God, our purpose, and our relationship with him impacts this belief we have about ourselves and the stories we share about ourselves. Thus, the three sentences at the beginning of this article become critical to our existence. “Do you know who you are? Do you know what has happened to you? Do you want to live this way?”

Our former pastor had once asked us, “Who are you without your titles and accolades?” The perfect and simple answer is, “I am a child of God.” Verbally, that has been a short and easy thing to say, but it has been challenging to internalise that statement. The truth is that we long for the recognition from the world. The story I believe about myself is that I need to prove my worth through my achievements.

Who would I be without the degrees, the work experience, the social circles, and my family? To truly embrace my identity as a Child of God, I need to strip myself of every other identity that I cling to. What does that look like? This morning, it dawned on me that the perfect picture of that embodied in the portrait of the naked Jesus hung on the cross, stripped of His earthly and heavenly identity. He died in all ways so that He could be resurrected to life as the eternal God who defeated death. My biggest fear is that if I lay down all identities at the feet of Jesus, I will find myself naked. I forget that I have been clothed by grace and can be lifted to become someone far greater than I have ever imagined.

I am writing this article at the end of 2023, and I have spent a whole year seeking myself in places from the past. I thought my national identity, my regional identity, my generational identity, or even my religious identity as a Christian could fill the hole I have been experiencing deep within. I have found temporary solace in century-old regional and religious music, family and regional recipes, family photographs, stories about my ancestors, and old diaries; however, the comfort has not lasted.

God has been kind enough to let me wander through these alleys with the Holy Spirit, continually reminding me that no nationality, regional identity, or family roots could fulfil my soul in this identity quest. It is only my identity as a child of God that would satisfy the deepest longing of my heart.

 

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

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Ishnita Nayantara Keskar

Ishnita Nayantara Keskar is a mother of two and currently lives with her husband and children in Bhopal. She is pursuing her PhD in the Psychology of Education from Jawaharlal University, Delhi. She loves writing, travelling, driving and watching movies.

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