Have you ever taken a personality test? They ask you a few questions, and then “reveal” something about who you are…
- Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
- Which Color Are You?
- The 5 Love Languages (9 million copies sold)
- Keirsey Temperament Sorter
- Strengthsfinder 2.0 (Wall Street Journal #1 and BusinessWeek #1 bestseller)
I used to gleefully spend hours taking personality tests. Some were even school course requirements. While they can offer some helpful insights, personality tests can also – especially for Christians – distract us from where we should find our identity.
John the Baptist’s Test
In November 2010, I remember walking through the tall grass of the Jordanian wilderness, accompanying my fellow pilgrims to the site of Christ’s baptism. We were privileged to trek there, rather than the typical Jordan River ‘pilgrim stop’ in Israel which is busy and developed. Here, though, it seemed we were discovering uncharted territory. As we walked, our shoes crushing rock and fallen foliage, and I almost expected to hear the voice of hairy, wild John the Baptist shouting, “Prepare the way for the Lord!”
On Gaudete Sunday, we read that Jewish priests and Levites tested John the Baptist about his identity. I am amazed by his disarming authenticity and self-knowledge:
He admitted and did not deny it,
but admitted, “I am not the Christ.”
So they asked him,
“What are you then? Are you Elijah?”
And he said, “I am not.”
“Are you the Prophet?”
He answered, “No.”
Three times, John affirms who he is not. Then, he answers them:
“I am the voice of one crying out in the desert,
‘make straight the way of the Lord,’”
as Isaiah the prophet said.”
I wonder if John’s mother, Elizabeth, ever told him the story of his name. He would know that instead of being named after his father, זְכַרְיָה – meaning “YHWH has remembered” – the Lord sent an angel to ensure that John would be named יוֹחָנָן – “YHWH is gracious”.
God wanted John’s name to say something: That he was sent to call people toward repentance and conversion. John prepared the way for Jesus, who would eat with sinners, forgive them, and die for them, revealing that God is gracious. John’s entire life was directed toward preparing people for Jesus’ coming.
Hence, John found his identity in his relationship to Jesus, and to his fellow man: “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘make straight the way of the Lord.'”
Discovering Who We Are
From John, we learn that the ultimate personality test consists of two simple questions: What is my relationship to Jesus Christ? How does that inform my relationships with other people?
Pope Benedict XVI once said, “The Christian rediscovers his true identity in Christ […] In identifying with him, in being one with him, I rediscover my personal identity…” Benedict also taught us in his encyclical Charity in Truth, “As a spiritual being, the human creature is defined through interpersonal relations. The more authentically he or she lives these relations, the more his or her own personal identity matures. It is not by isolation that man establishes his worth, but by placing himself in relation with others and with God. Hence these relations take on fundamental importance.”
This Advent and Christmas, take time to rediscover your true identity. Consider journaling or sitting in silence to reflect:
- How did my relationship with Jesus begin? How has it grown?
- How would I describe my relationship with Jesus today? (Who is Jesus to me?)
- How has Jesus transformed my relationship with others?
- In what ways might Jesus be calling me to be more authentic in my relationship with Him? In my relationships with others?
Thank you, Lord Jesus – for becoming human, for being gracious, and for showing me who I truly am. Amen.