I did not intend to be ‘Stanley Hauerwas.’ I am aware, however, that there is someone out there who bears that name.
So begins the memoir penned by, of course, Stanley Hauerwas. One of the things I believe Hauerwas eludes to is his recognition that the person he has become is not the well-crafted result of a life wrested toward this end.
I believe it one of the grandest illusions of modern humanity, this notion that we can make ourselves to be whoever it is we want to be. I don’t tell my sons that they can do whatever they put their mind to. They have many options, and there are years ahead to discover what is in their heart and how they are to give what is in their heart away to their world. However, there are some things that simply are not meant for them.
The problem is not lack of will or tenacity. The problem (which really is no problem at all – but a gift) is that we are particular beings, with particular bents and unique treasures. Our narrative is uniquely ours, and this narrative is made up of all kinds of intricate details. What we love, what we hate, what we see and how we see it, what makes us cry, what makes us want to gouge our eyes out. All these things make who we are.
I am not made to be anything. I am certainly not made to be everything. I believe each of us are created to be someone particular, to offer something particular. No matter how hard I try, I will never be an Olympic marathoner or at the helm of a Fortune 500 behemoth, thank God. I’m free from that bland and crushing expectation.
However, I also think Hauerwas’ wry line hints at his belief that who he truly is may not be who everyone has imagined him to be. The name and the image have taken on a life all their own. Most of us spend far too much of our time attempting to be a good version of ourselves, an acceptable version, a moderate version, a version that lives up to the billing. Too often, I am too aware of other’s reactions to me, gaging whether or not I should put on the brake, tone down the language, give someone an easy exit.
But if I do any of those, if I become who I’m expected to be rather than who I actually am, I silence the distinct and remarkable gift God intends to offer the world through me. And the same is true for you. It is an act of holy rebellion to refuse the safe path of meeting other’s expectations. It is courageous to listen to God’s voice, to hear God tell you who you are and what you are to be in this world. It is courageous to hear that – and then to live that.
And, let me tell you, our world needs courageous people. We need you.