“Those eggs were a lie, Steven. A LIE! They give me no eagle powers!
They give me no… nutrients!”
– Nacho –
Let me give you a little glimpse of my morning when I come to work. I’ll come in and say ‘what’s up’ to the guys, get my uniform on and relieve whoever I’m taking over for on the fire truck. I’ll grab a cup of coffee, stir in the honey, and walk outside to the bay where I grab my gear and load it on the truck. I’ll check my air bottle making sure there’s enough air, that the gauges work properly, and that the regulator and my mask marry up and that I actually get air flowing through my mask. It’s not unlike what you would see a diver do prior to plunging into the deep blue except we remain on land and plunge into the deep black…or grey…or brown…depending on what’s burning. It’s kind of important that it works properly. It’s rote memory as I go through my checks to ensure that nothing is missing. From there I move on to our medical equipment, making sure that everything that is needed is there, and again, that nothing is missing. I work my way around the apparatus checking our tools and hoses, the pump and lights, the air horn and siren. I look underneath the rig and on top with one question always burning in my head… “What is missing?” When you first begin in this profession and you do your checks, everything is pretty new so you make every effort to know the tools at your disposal. Once you’ve been in for awhile and you know your tools and apparatus, the question starts to shift from ‘what’s here?’ to ‘what’s not here…what is missing?’ You see the voids where something is supposed to be. I would venture to guess that some form of this principle of seeing what’s missing happens in your life as well.
While this may be a somewhat effective way to check a fire truck, it is easy to let this type of thinking creep into our personal lives. We start to define ourselves by what’s missing rather than what’s available. It happens all the time. Think about our health. We hardly notice or appreciate our health until we are faced with something debilitating. Think about our relationships. We didn’t realize or recognize the ones standing close to us until they were no longer there. Think about your drive-way, your closet, your fridge, or your pantry. Wait…did I just go there? You see how this idea of always looking at what’s missing can derail us from fully enjoying the people and possessions we do have? Really, this question of ‘what’s missing?’ comes down to the questions of our identity. In what or who do we find our identity?
In a stroke of pure Mexican corn fed, unmasked, philosophical genius, Nacho Libre captured the essence of this. “Beneath the clothes, we find a man… and beneath the man, we find his… nucleus.” What is at your…nucleus my friend? If what is at your “nucleus” is something that can be shaken or stolen, I would encourage you to skip the eagle egg shakes and move toward deeper waters.
In Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl’s gripping personal account of prison life in Auschwitz, he described an incident that shook him to his core. On this day they were being forced to strip naked in order to be shaved from head to toe and then showered. He writes,
Here’s a question for you, when you are faced with your naked existence, who are you? When everything is stripped away, what remains?
I think Jeff Shinabarger is spot on in More or Less, when he writes about trying to quantify one’s self-worth through possessions or image.
“Nothing we have in the form of material value will ever be adequate to fulfill that need.”
If we are not careful, our lack of awareness in our true identity will propel us into that endless and destructive cycle of pursuing the things that we think will give us meaning. In the end, that pursuit will leave us financially, emotionally, spiritually, and relationally bankrupt.
Here are a couple of questions that may help you clarify your identity.
- Have you found that you base your identity in something you do? (Occupation, hobbies, etc.)
- Do you find yourself living for the approval of something or someone else? If so, who?
- If that thing or person were taken from you or left you would you have to redefine your existence?
If you have to redefine who you are in the absence of that thing or person, you may be trying to find your identity in something or someone unworthy of it.
Nacho Libre, Paramount Pictures [United States] 2006
Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor E. Frankl; Beacon Press 2006
More or Less – Choosing a Lifestyle of Excessive Generosity, p.65 Jeff Shinabarger; David C. Cook 2013