The second factor of feeling like a person is being able to see your connection to those who have come before you.
In a normal situation there is a sense of anticipation by the parents as they wonder about the design of the child in the womb. Will this child have Dad’s passion for basketball, or Mom’s love of music? Will he or she have Dad’s round face or Mom’s long slender fingers? Whatever the answer is, there is the confidence on the part of the parents that their child will be a reflection of them, in some very specific way.
After the birth, it is normal for a child to hear comments connecting them to their family line all through childhood. I grew up knowing I had “Burk eyes” and that anyone could spot me as a Burk from that one feature.
I knew that the problems with my great toes went back to my dad, his mother, and her mother. Even though it was a messy problem, I knew I was a chip off the old block biologically.
My crooked teeth were also a claim to the family line. And when my mom asked me a few years ago about the scar on my cheek, I simply replied by asking, “What is my last name?” She gave me a playful shove, thereby acknowledging once again that I was a Burk, sharing the rather massive predisposition we have to basal cell carcinoma.
There are some who were adopted and have no knowledge of how they express the family gene pool. There are many others, especially in divorce situations, whose resemblance to the rejected spouse is a source of pain, not joy. The same holds true for those who strongly resemble some black sheep in the family line!
So what would be the compensation if you don’t know who you resemble, or if your resemblance is a point of offense — a dehumanizing issue?
I wonder about those who need to be not only part of a group, but they need to look like the leader of the group. Surely there are multiple layers to the dynamic of hero worship and deeply mimicking heroes. But I wonder if some of the people who try to dress, act and talk like the sports or movie heroes they have never met are compensating for not being secure in their own personhood.
I wonder to what degree this feeds Christian cults. When a leader sets himself up as the ultimate role model and “invites” people to model their life after that leader, is there an extraordinary draw to those who are not in the office of personhood? Does this partially explain why some people can walk right by a cult and not get sucked in and others experience multiple devourings in their lives?
To put it more bluntly, do cult leaders prey on people who lack personhood by offering one dimension of personhood to those who are willing to become clones of the leader?
I have never done a study on cult dynamics, so this is absolutely not an authoritative pronouncement, just some musings on a blog.
So what about the restoration into the office of personhood? What does that look like at this stage?
One option I wonder about is an exploration of our roots. I was talking to Hanna a few years ago about our American celebration of European roots. The context was St. Patrick’s Day and all the people who turn Irish for a day, but it has much wider applications.
Even though my family has been gone from Scotland for centuries, I still identify with that as a place of my national heritage, even though I have English, Irish and German blood as well. Megan likewise is quite cognizant of her roots in French nobility.
All of that, however, pales in comparison to the “Italians.” To hear someone whose family line has been gone from Italy for three or four centuries talk about how “Italian” they are, you would think we were back in the days of Caesar Augustus when the Roman Empire was at its peak, and that the American speaking to you had been in Rome just last week!
Hanna said that this kind of attachment to and identification with the place our forefathers lived centuries ago is not nearly so common in Europe, and she attributed our behavior to deficiencies in our rootedness.
Still, whether it is generalities like “The Scots” or specifics like my great-great-grandmother Mary Allen King from Steubenville, Ohio who memorized the gospel of Matthew when she was nine years old, we do find some measure of personhood from association with admirable people in our past.
Having said all that, I think that the greatest foundation for personhood is seeing that we are like God in our spirit.
I felt so weird as a kid when I was so in love with healing broken land. But when I discovered that God was more into healing broken land than I was, and there was more in Scripture about land than heaven, it was immensely transformational. I felt so validated as a reflection of the heart of my Father in heaven.
The same was true with my fascination with gemstones. It was just a private little hobby that had no particular application to anything, until God one day shared one of His secrets with me. The nine gemstones on the Anointed Cherub parallel the nine fruit of the Spirit. And then He added that although human history began in a garden, it will end in a city built of gemstones.
When I realized that gemstones contain the greatest revelation of the nature of God outside the Word of God, I was massively validated. As a son of my Father, I had intuitively been looking in the right direction.
As a youngster, I bore the label of “Wiggle Worm” from early on. Imagine the impact on my sense of identity when I discovered that God is in motion 90% of the times we see Him in the pages of Scripture and that this translated into a motion anointing for Elijah and Ezekiel and Peter.
The list is long and rich. There is so much good about me that is not explainable by the culture I was raised in, and some that was even battered by that culture, but was incredibly resilient because it was the fingerprint of God on my life.
What is marvelous about this facet of moving into the office of personhood is that you can do this piece of the process unilaterally. You don’t have to wait for God to initiate or for someone to walk along side of you.
Simply make a list of all the ways in which you resemble God. There are some of those which can be attributable to your community of origin, but everything that is left is the result of the craftsmanship of Almighty God and His intentionally placing some of His skills and passion in you.
How can you NOT be a person if you are absolutely, measurably a reflection of your God who made you?!
Copyright October 2011 by Arthur Burk
From the Quarterdeck, in Anaheim