So [the sailors] asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”
What questions do you ask a person when you first meet? How do you answer such questions? Often, in my experience, people will answer a question of who they are by what they do in their career. “I’m an accountant,” “I’m a teacher,” or “I’m a pastor.” Of the five questions the sailors ask Jonah, type of work is second on their interview list of questions. We often associate identity with work, especially when our career is fulfilling. Those of you who have retired may have found yourself with a minor identity crisis at retirement if you defined your life in terms of your career. Many factors shape our identity, including the four mentioned by these sailors: work, residence (“Where do you come from?”), nationality (“What is your country?”), and race or ethnicity (“From what people are you?”).
I write this entry on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, January 20, 2014. MLK had an amazing dream, a dream of a time when his “four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” While we have come a long ways along the journey towards that dream declared in the 1960’s, we still have a long ways to go to realize this dream. We are more than the work we do, the place we live, the nation in which we live, or the color of our skin. Our identity certainly is influenced by the questions asked by these sailors, but not limited to them.
Who are you? Who am I? How can we better discover the mystery of another person’s soul? When you first meet someone, what do you most want to know about them? What key questions may open the doorway into a person’s soul? When someone first gets to know you, what do you most want to tell them about yourself? What obstacles stand in the way of sharing your soul with another? How have others best entered into your life, helping you feel free to unveil the mystery of your life?
The sailor’s first question may prove the toughest. In the face of all the troubles around us, we want to know who is responsible for this world. Behind this question lies our core values, the roots of our identity.Who is responsible for what goes on in this world? Many options are available: nature, people, family, DNA, nations, fate, karma, God. How we answer this question tells others more about us than what kind of work we do, where we are born, or what tribe we belong to. At the heart of the sailor’s first question is the question of faith. In what or in whom do we trust?
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on August 28, 1963, “I have a dream…”