Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Who are you, and what do you do?

Who are you and what do you do?

It's a basic question, and one that you've probably answered at least a hundred times in your life. It's so basic that we don't really think much of it. However, it seems to me that in our day and our culture, we have fundamentally lost the ability to answer these questions correctly. Whenever it's asked of me, I always default into the way everyone else answers it.

"My name is Nate. I'm from North St. Paul. I have a wife and a daughter. I go to Luther Seminary, and I coach basketball."

Now this is all well and good until you realize that I've really not answered both questions asked of me. I've only told you what I do. But in our world no one seems to notice that. It happens because we've combined the questions and our own identities have become defined by what we do. To some, that may be good enough. But I'm not satisfied with that. When I answer in that way, I've told you my name, and where I spend my time. But that doesn't quite paint the full picture for you.

Instead, I'd love to tell you, "My name is Nate. I strive to be a man of high character and of deep faith. I love people and working with them in good times and in bad. That's why I'm going to seminary. I want to be classy, over being cool. I want to be known as wise rather than being smart. I work hard at the things I love to do. I am a loving father and husband, and I work every day to be better at that. I want to be the best at whatever I do. That is especially true when I coach basketball."

Now I've told you a little bit about who I am. You see, the difference in that answer is that I'm no longer defined by what I do. Instead, what I do is defined by who I am. All too often in our world, I see people who get into a career with the intention of defining it. With all the hopes and dreams of a bright future and all the wonderful things they'll be able to do. But as they get caught up in the whirlwind of the daily grind, they lose sight of who they are and the desire to define their job. Then they become a label. Perhaps we don't answer in the full way because people don't want to stand their listening to the whole thing. Perhaps it's because we don't want to brag about ourselves.

Here's the deal. I know you are much more than what you do. You, who are sitting at your computer, or reading this on your phone, who clicked some random link to get here, or maybe got this emailed to your inbox. You are much more than what you do. I know it. So let me ask you again,
Who are you, and what do you do? I really want to know.

(p.s. I have changed around some settings so that anyone can comment. So I'd love for you to actually answer that question if you'd like to!)


  1. First comment yesss! I love the idea of rethinking our answer to these questions. It gets at the heart of how we interact and effect our surroundings. It also gives a sense of value to our lives and gives space to tell our story. I wish it was easier to share with people the vunerability and anxiety I exprience in trying to become a quality pastor and more generally a member of our society.

  2. Nice entry!
    I like this background much better. Easier for these old eyes to read it!