As the story goes, someone once asked Lyndon Johnson who he was. After a short pause, the Texan, war veteran, and President rattled off a list of titles in order of priority. I have often thought about this question and wondered in what order I would list the labels that apply to me. I have come to realize that the list is a work in progress that changes as one enters different chapters of one's life.
I remember a discussion I had with a co-worker. I told him that at one point in my young career I contemplated getting a tattoo of a Sun Devil wearing dress blues. This would commemorate two very significant accomplishments for me--the first person in my family to graduate college and becoming a US Marine--two significant accomplishments to be sure. But looking back a dozen plus years later, I no longer look upon these accomplishments with the same esteem. I am still and will always be proud of their achievement but I have grown and I have since accomplished more.
In contemplating my list I am reminded of a speech Gen Zinni gave. He asked the auditorium full of captains--most of whom had recently been in combat or would soon be going--for what were we prepared to die.
If we are to value living a life of honor then we must adhere to certain principles. As diamonds are formed over years under intense heat and extreme pressure, our principles are formed throughout our life through our experiences and relationships. Whether through hardship and sacrifice or through good fortune and blessings, the internalization of our experiences as a result of their emotional and physical impact will determine what principles we value most. Adherence to those principles will determine what we do, with whom we spend our time, and how we live our life.
In order to determine who you are, it is first necessary to determine what you value. The Bible tells us where we put our treasure we will also find our heart. Now one's treasure can mean anything of value, money, time, etc.; but the greatest treasure we possess, is our very life. As Lincoln says, to give one's life is to give "the last full measure of devotion."
So, if your principles are clear, it should be relatively simple to determine who you are, how you are defined, and how you would want others to define you as well. Perhaps a good lesson then, would be to have someone close to you attempt to define you as well. Ideally, your list will be in sync with the perception of those around you. Where there are differences it is likely because you are not necessarily demonstrating those principles you say you value.
Once you know how you are defined, you will know for what you will live and thus for what you will die.
As I said, I have thought a lot of this list but have never attempted to write it down. I recognize this is subject to change as I enter different chapters of my life. But after 36 years, a wife and two kids, I'd like to believe I know what I value most.
So who am I?
I am a Christian, a husband, a father, a son, a brother, an uncle, a friend, a Marine, an American.
In the wake of the tragedy at Fort Hood, a comment was made in the media that the perpetrator stated that he put his religion before his country. At first I was upset by this. But as I thought about this list and what it is I value most, I too believe that I put my faith in Jesus Christ before my country. Indeed, as I look at the list, I see a number of things that mean more to me than my citizenship.
I do not think that makes me any less of an American. Rather, I like to believe that it makes me a better Christian, husband, father, etc...
So, who are you?