Are you locating your identity, in your location?
I went off to Arabia, and later came back to Damascus. Only after three years did I go up Jerusalem to meet Cephas…. Gal 1:17-18 NJB
Just who was Paul of Tarsus? Imagine a time line of Paul’s life from his birth, through his training under Gamaliel, to becoming a full-time persecutor of the church. Follow the time line to his conversion, a spell in Arabia, endorsement from the apostles, and the various phases of his missionary work ending with his martyrdom.
Who was Paul of Tarsus?
Well how you answer that will depend on where you are in relation to Paul’s timeline. If you could only see part of it you might call him a good student, a devout and pious Jew, an oppressive fanatic, a local evangelist, fledging missionary, famous apostle, or best selling author. If you could see the whole time line you could perhaps find a way of telling the whole story in a single sentence.
We could say that who Paul was, depended on where he was on his timeline. At any point on his timeline Paul was some place with some people doing some thing. You might conclude that Paul’s identity was tied up with his location.
Who you are depends on where you are.
But is that true? If you look at the whole of Paul’s timeline as opposed to a segment of it, you can see that there was always more to Paul than you could see from any point in his life. And even at the point of his martyrdom, if that was the last you saw of Paul’s life, you wouldn’t see his ongoing impact on history after his death.
If you have faithfully being dong the same thing, with the same people in the same place for an extended period of time, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you’ve reached the limit of your potential and your impact.
I suspect that’s not true. And next time I’ll share with you an easy exercise to put that theory to the test.
But for now, carry this thought for a while and see where it takes you.
Who you are, does not depend on where you are.
Geoff Ashton is Director of C21coaching and co-founder of 4Spaces Coaching