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Who do you say that I am?

Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson

Mom is in Fort Lauderdale, in the projected path of Hurricane Irma. She lives in a strong concrete condominium a few miles inland that has successfully weathered its share of hurricanes over the past fifty years. One of her neighbors has already closed the accordion hurricane shutters that cover each of her windows. I had non-perishable groceries delivered, my brother delivered cases of water, my sister will stay with her through the hurricane, and Mom informed me that Samaritan’s Purse has set up rescue operations a block away at her church.

Still, this morning I asked her if she wouldn’t like to fly out of Fort Lauderdale and join me in Colorado. Mom’s niece called and asked her to fly her to Ohio.

“Suzie, I’ve done everything I need to do to get ready for this storm. And I’m sharing the extra I have with my neighbors down the hall.”

“I know, Mom,” I replied, “But I’d feel better if I knew you weren’t there.”

“Suzie, God knows where I am and my life is in his hands. Don’t worry, everything will be okay, this is where I belong. I’m helping my neighbors. If you say you believe in God, you must trust in him, too.”

Earlier that morning, I’d been walking Henry, my Newfoundland dog. I hadn’t had much luck trying to decide on a topic to write about this week. I considered writing about a book I’d read, but honestly it didn’t speak to my heart.

As I walked with Henry, I spoke with God and asked him what he wanted me to write about. The only answer I received was this, “Who do you say I am?”

This question is from a pivotal dialogue between Jesus and Peter, found in Mark 8:27-29:

Jesus and His disciples went out into the towns of Caesarea Philippi. On the way He asked His disciples, “Who do men say that I am?”
They answered, “John the Baptist, but some say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Peter answered Him, “You are the Christ.”

“Who do you say that I am?”

This question couldn’t be the topic I was meant to write about this week. I knew the answer, God is God. I believe he is my strength and salvation. Still, as I went through the day, the question persisted even as I wrote the first draft of this column. But I continued to write, pursuing the answer to a familiar question that God wanted me to see differently.

God will ask this question of us many times throughout our lives. It’s easy to answer when the weather is sunny and warm, our bellies are full, our homes are safe and secure. But like a house of cards, we wonder which unexpected change will cause our lives to crumble. Will it be a frightening diagnosis? Scary news about a loved one? A stock market collapse? A hurricane that’s headed our way?

“Who do you say that I am?”

In times of uncertainty or tragedy, we will have to answer this question a dozen times or more. Not because God’s certainty wavers. It does not. God is Alpha and Omega, always surrounding us with his love. But our ability to perceive and more importantly to rest in this assurance can be clouded by our own insecurities.

Father Michael once shared during a homily that when he was going through chemotherapy for glioblastoma, the 23rd Psalm was a great source of comfort:
The Lord is my shepherd;
I have what I need.
He lets me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside quiet waters.
He renews my life;
he leads me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even when I go through the darkest valley,
I fear no danger,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
as long as I live.

Throughout his ministry, Jesus used the metaphor as himself as the Good Shepherd, the loving shepherd who would go out into the storm to find us and comfort us. His love for us is never-ending, always present. Yes, yes, I know all of this. But still, as I think of my mother in South Florida with a massive hurricane bearing down on her and the rest of a densely-populated area, my faith wavers in fear for her safety and my love for her. As much as I love God with all my heart, I am still very human and flawed.

As I write the final paragraph of this column the answer God was seeking from me is finally revealed: When Jesus asks, “Who do you say that I am?” it is to remind me of who he is, that I have nothing to fear, that he is our Good Shepherd, that we are loved and we are safe in the storm.


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