What defines you?
This is the question we posed last week to about 65 college students on the biggest party street in Tempe: Mill Avenue. It was midnight. With nothing but a video camera, sincerity and courage, we walked through the crowds of drunken, careless college students and challenged them on the deepest of levels. What defines you?
"For a lot of us who think we have our life in control, we don't ask this question." said Todd Covarrubias, our speaker for SPOken last Monday. The 6-minute video project was the prelude to his talk on identity. What we discovered and shared with our guests is that most college students don't know what makes them valuable. Sadly, many of them place their identity in things that are fleeting, and when those things pass away they are left with nothing.
Covarrubias illustrated this fact beautifully using the movieThe Lion King as an example. The Lion King is all about how Simba loses and regains his identity. When tragedy strikes, he runs away and tries to forget who he is. While his adoption of a new motto, "hakuna matata," satisfies and defines him for a time, Rafiki opens his eyes to the fact that he has no idea who he is, and guides him back to the only one who can truly identify him: his father.
We are all like Simba. We forget who we truly are, and in our good and natural instinct to discover our identity we cling tight to the many things that seem to define us – like our talents, our possessions, or our bodies – but then when tragedy strikes and those things are taken away, we realize we have no control. We are left purposeless, so we run to things like sex, money, drugs and alcohol to escape reality. Covarrubias continued,
"We have to revisit the question; because it's not your major, it's not how well you do in school, it's not your athletics, it's not your prowess that you think you have. It's none of that. Who are you? You're sons and daughters of a King. And we've forgotten."
In The Lion King, Rafiki points Simba to his reflection and reveals that his father lives in him.
"[God] made us and He's living in us," Covarrubias said, "and everything, all the subjects that you love and hate, all the things that are going on in the world, all of it is God trying to reveal himself to us."
"I only have one person to please, and it's the Lord. So I'm going to look to him for my identity; especially right now in this culture – there are all these options for identity, and only one's going to satisfy."
We are heirs to a kingdom, a kingdom that we don't have to earn. Our actions, our personalities, our talents and our treasures, can never gain nor deprive us of our royal inheritance. We need to remember who we are. We are children of God.