Recently, I found myself bopping around Indonesia after my work schedule plopped three free weeks in my lap to do with as I pleased. One of the benefits I derive from traveling comes as a result of a mantra I’ve adopted from that classic Yes song: If I refuse to surround myself with myself, life grants me rich opportunities to experience and taste-test languages and cultures with which I may not otherwise come in contact–different languages and cultures even than those I’d naturally find wherever it is I’m traveling. So this time around, that meant I found myself in the midst of a herd-and-a-half of fellow travelers whose nationalities forced my high school French back out into the sunlight, and whose faith I had only previously observed from the outside and from afar.
I’ve discovered as I’ve grown older and shaped my previously-passing interests into real enthusiastic habits that I have quite an appetite for religion–for mine and for others’. I find nothing more beautiful than a body of people answering to a higher power of any shape, size, color, or quantity. So while hanging out with my new friends in Bali, comparing and contrasting their faith and mine became a regular pattern of our conversations. Between dining on pepes ikan and snacking on pisang goreng (a favorite), we shared our scriptures and taught each other how to pray. After I’d finished barfing out the window of our fast boat, we found common ground in the standards our lifestyles upheld and we spoke about the impetus for those standards. We laughed about the quirks of our religious cultures and how they affected our families. We discussed who God is; we discussed who we are. And while I filled a whole page in my journal with all that I learned from their gospel, I learned something perhaps even more invaluable about my own faith that I would be unwise to overlook again.
One major difference my friends and I found between our faiths lay in our beliefs about our identities: While they held that we are simply God’s creations, I felt a match strike in my chest with the knowledge that I am more than that. And while it’s an idea any five-year-old could tell you without hesitation or confusion, in my moment on the porch of a small homestay on Gili Trawangan, as I heard myself say it, I learned it again: I am a daughter of God.
That fundamental understanding of my identity informs so much else in my interaction with myself and with my future and with the heavens beyond. I hadn’t realized, but everything about my testimony follows from that one idea: Primarily, for example, that we continue to have prophets on the earth today who speak to us still, because God loves His children still. It was such a blessing, as it always ends up being, to sit at those prophets’ feet this weekend and hear the modern-day word of God floating through my tiny little computer speakers all the way on this underbelly of the planet. And all because I am a daughter of God. My friends lacked the understanding that they too are children of God, so the idea of living prophets couldn’t add up either. For me though, that idea is essential, and applies on an even more personal and important level still.
Not only has God given us living mouthpieces for His words to find their way to my ears, but God actually speaks into my ears. Personal revelation is the most identity-affirming tool we have at our disposal, and as we try to navigate our funny little lives, we would be doing ourselves the deepest disservice to forget to use it at every turn. I don’t know about any of you, but I lack wisdom all the time. Is it so easy to forget who I am, and what that means? I spend an inordinate amount of time ringing my father back home for advice about my life while distracting him from his own; with the same ease I should approach my Father above, in the name and by the grace of my Brother, to switch on the light in the awkwardly dark room where I live. But even if I’m hopeless when it comes to finding myself, God knows where I am, because unlike me, God doesn’t need to be reminded about who I am.
And that may just be the most profound rediscovery of all: that He is fully aware of me and my quirks, far more so than I am. And that makes Him uniquely qualified to counsel and comfort and enlighten according to my particular, ever-changing needs. In this very moment, in fact, He is fully aware of what troubles me, and has a much better idea than I do of what I should do about it. I just need to hit my knees and ask.
He gives stuff away pretty liberally, I’m told. Even when you’re sitting on an obscure little porch, somewhere in Indonesia.