“I am Jennifer. What about you?” I try to smile in case the voice sees me.
“You are not your name.” The voice is hollow and eerie like the wind. It brings a shiver down my spine.
“I… I don’t know what you are talking about.”
“Surely you know who you are.”
I can’t see the voice, but it is raspy and reminds me of a witch’s. I don’t like it, but it’s not going away.
“What I’m wondering is, who are you?”
“Tell me who you are!” it screeches, yet still, somehow, in a whisper. “Perhaps then I will tell you about myself.”
I stare into the darkness. I want to cry, because I don’t know who I am.
“Well, I am a girl, I guess.”
“Certainly you are. But that is not WHO you are.”
I am getting nervous and sweaty. I feel goosebumps on my arms. It is so dark and cold in this place, this place of fear and confusion. I don’t know where I am, what I’m doing, or why I’m here. So how am I supposed to know WHO I am?
“I am a high schooler,” I venture to say, just to see the voice’s reaction.
“No you aren’t,” it says bluntly. “Don’t you understand? High school is the type of school you are doing, a girl is what you look like and how you think, and your name Jennifer is only a word your parents chose to call you. Who you are is what you are all about. So tell me, what are you all about?”
“I love to read,” I say, trying to sound casual, as if I am talking to a friend. “I plan on going to college and studying literature.”
“No, that’s not what I mean. Who you are is not what you do.”
I press my hands to my face to hide tears, in case the voice can see them. The voice wants a certain answer to its question, but I can’t figure out what that answer is. Who am I, anyway? If I’m not a high school girl named Jennifer who likes to read, who could I be? Maybe the secret lies in stereotypes. I know I fall into the nerdy stereotype, but that can’t be who I am.
I go for it anyway. “I am a nerd.”
The voice breaks into harsh laughter. “You are hilarious!”
My eyes widen. “Am I? I didn’t think a clown could be who I was.”
“That’s not what I meant.” Its laughter ends abruptly.
Shoot, I almost figured it out.
“Can you give me a hint?”
“I’ve already given you plenty.”
I sigh. “Okay, let me think here.”
I am worn, that is how I feel. I may use my easygoing nature to hide that from the voice, but it is true. I am scared, confused, desperate, and worn. But that is just how I feel, that is not who I am. I know it, so I don’t say anything this time.
“Oh, all right,” the voice relents. “The hint is that what you believe defines you. What controls your attitude and actions? What do you live for? Why do you live?”
A new hope rises in me, and I try to think. But when I become honest with myself, I see that I truly don’t know why I live; in fact, I would rather die and go to heaven right now than live my life with the divulging truth that I have no idea who I am.
“I live to survive,” I say quietly, clutching my sweaty hands behind my back.
The voice laughs at me. “That seems a pointless goal if you have nothing to live for.”
I swallow down the lump in my throat. “But… but isn’t the point of life to live?”
I know if I saw the voice right now it would be rolling on the floor with its mouth open and tears streaming down its cheeks, because that’s how it’s laughter feels.
“So you’re saying,” it replies scornfully, “that the reason you live is to live?”
“—it is ridiculous, to be sure. Now I’ll have to give you another hint. Who or what is your idol? Who do you try to please?”
I had to be honest, so I say what I know to be true. “Myself. I try to please myself. I am who I live for.”
“Ah…” the voice murmurs, “then I finally know who you are.”
I can feel its wild eyes and broad grin pounding in my ears and heart. I lock my hands tighter behind me to keep them from shaking.
“Who am I, then?” I whisper. My chin trembles as I speak. I am not breathing.
“On the outside you are a high school girl named Jennifer who likes to read.” The voice is crisp and clear, and it seems very close to me. “But on the inside you are…” It drops, and I can’t hear the rest.
“No, please tell me,” I gasp. “I beg you!”
The voice cries out, “YOU… ARE… NOTHING!”
I stare madly at the dark, clenching my teeth so hard I think I’ll lose them. I want to scream. NO! No, no, no… it can’t be! After all this, and I am nothing?
I grasp onto something logical to say to the voice. “Is… is everyone nothing?”
For if everyone is, then I am not alone on this pointless journey of life.
“Almost everyone,” says the voice.
“How do you become something?” I ask. I wait for what seems like ages.
“Sir? Ma’am? Or whoever you are?”
I give up on politeness, and shout, “You have to tell me!” But I am crying, because I know it must be hopeless. There is no way to become something without being it in the first place. So I sink to my knees, sobbing. “I want to be something—I have to be something! I need a purpose! Someone get me out of this darkness. I need to live for something other than myself. I need to live for a reason other than to survive.” I feel pain in my chest, and I am trembling all over. I want to die, because I am hopeless.
As I sob into my hands, I start feeling a light on me, but I cannot see it. It warms me, and, presently, I hear a voice. Not the witch-like voice, but a low, gentle, voice like a summer evening.
“I died so you could live for me. I died to make you something new—holy and sinless before God, so you may have a relationship with me, so you may live for me. I died to take you out of darkness, to conquer the night, and claim victory over death. I am the reason you are alive; I am the reason why you should live.” It pauses, and then whispers softly, “Without me, you are nothing.”
My heart jumps wildly, and the light feels more certain on me, but I still can’t see it. Somehow, I recognize him. Yes, he is a man, and his name is Jesus. That is something that I am certain of.
“I am sorry for living for myself, Jesus,” I cry out, for I am desperate. Once I try out the words on my tongue, I realize that it is true. I want to live for Jesus. I want to be with him; I don’t want to be nothing.
“I love you, Jennifer. You are forgiven,” he says tenderly. “Now my precious one. Will you take my hand?”
It is so sudden, that it is hard to believe what just happened. He forgave me; he wants me; he loves me. I am leaping over clouds, I am being rescued from the shadows. My sobs continue, but they are from a sudden burst of hope and joy in my heart. I don’t want it to go away.
“Thank you.” I long for him, yet I am surrounded in darkness. “But I cannot see you, Jesus.”
“Once you take my hand, you will see things you never dreamed of. For now, reach for my voice,” he whispers. “I am here. Trust me.”
His kindness tugs at my heart, and I want to live for him now more than ever. I reach out my hand toward his voice, and grab a hold of something—a hand, that is large and warm. Then my eyes are opened and I see things I never dreamed of.
I know who I am now. I am a beloved daughter of God, I am a sister in Christ, and I am a new creation.
On the outside I may be a highschool girl named Jennifer who likes to read, but on the inside… I am His.