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My search for significance

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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A silhouette of a cross with a man kneeling arms upraised at the foot of the cross (Credit: B-C-designs via Fotolia.com)

I’m having a bit of an identity crisis this morning.  The Oregon Tree Farm System has just named Jim Denison its Tree Farm Inspector of the Year.  Apparently I’ve been an inspector for the program since 1986 and have a wife named Betty.  I hope Janet doesn’t mind.

It gets worse.  Jim Denison is also Director of Research for an energy company in Washington, D.C. and has an engineering degree from Purdue and an MBA from Vanderbilt.  And he is Director of the Canadian Athletics Coaching Centre while teaching at the University of Alberta.

Now I know why I’m a little tired this morning.  Holding down jobs on the East and West Coast and in Canada while doing ministry based in Texas can be exhausting.  It’s a strange sensation to see your name connected with faces that aren’t yours.  Since I don’t know an oak tree from a pecan or an amp from an ohm, and gave up coaching after our sons graduated from T-ball, I guess I’ll stick with my Texas job.

Do you ever wonder who you are supposed to be?

You can let others define you, a process going on at a frenetic pace in New Hampshire this morning as Republican rivals wrestle for money and media traction.  You can define yourself, something Michelle Bachmann is considering today after ending her run for president.  Or you can find your identity in the One who made you.

If you’re like me, you’ve tried all three approaches.  But popularity is fickle–the crowds that welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem on Sunday demanded his crucifixion on Friday.  And performance-based identity is capricious–the disciple who proclaimed Jesus the Son of God later denied him to a servant.

The best advice I’ve ever received came from my high school youth minister: Always remember the source of your personal worth.  What is that source?  “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

I am valuable because I am the child of God, loved sacrificially and passionately by my Father.  There is nothing I can do to make him love me any more or any less than he already does.  So I resolve to work hard this year, not so he will love me but because he already does.  I choose to find my worth not in my popularity or my performance but in his passion for me.  If I keep this new year’s resolution, this will be a day and year filled with his peace and joy.  If I don’t, I’ll be rushed and stressed, trying to do enough to impress you and validate myself.

It seems to me that the question is not, “Who are you?” but “Whose are you?”