The question, ‘who am I?’ has echoed throughout history, and continues to be questioned to this day. Its expressed through film, theatre, music and debated in universities. It’s a search for identity, with a deeper longing for purpose. If we can answer this first question, the second: ‘why am I?’, may seem easier to answer. ‘Who am I?’ is a question of identity, ‘why am I?’ is a question of purpose. Perhaps the greatest struggle we all go through, regardless of race or colour, is one of identity and therefore purpose.
Both my parents were born and raised in India, but were married here in the UK. They set up home in the midlands and in 1974, I came along. I was born into an Indian family with a strong cultural heritage, and yet was schooled and surrounded by a British culture.
We were, and still are, living in England and yet my family wanted to retain their Indian culture. Both cultures presented challenges; in language and in values – there was the potential for misunderstanding, as differences were often perceived as threats. And as if those challenges weren’t enough, my parents became Christians, which the wider family saw as rejection of them and of the Indian culture. I found myself with a foot in both cultures, and, at times, confused as I tried to navigate through the various challenges, trying to find my bearings. The stabilising factor really came in my own personal walk with Jesus.
As a 14-year-old schoolboy, I was stopped on a street and questioned by three older Indian boys as to why I was wearing a badge that said: Jesus. They asked: “Are you English now?” I wasn’t sure how to answer, and tried to help them understand that following Christ was not a rejection of my Indian culture, but simply a change of faith; that I could be fully Indian and still believe in Jesus Christ.
I also remember the struggle in referring to English history as mine or ours, and had to think twice: ‘Is it my history? Is it my country?’ My personal conclusion – yes it is; I was born here, and feel like I belong here. I am aware that others may answer this question differently, and don’t believe there is a right or a wrong answer. One thing I settled very early on, while still in my teens, was that I am proud to be Indian and absolutely love the heritage I have, and at the same time I am grateful to have the English/British heritage too. I count myself privileged to have been part of both worlds, and believe myself to be a richer, better person for it.
I decided that if a clash of cultures would arise, the kingdom of God would always win in my life. Conflicts would be settled by what the Bible says, and what my heavenly Father expects from me; His way would always win in my life. I am first a Christian, a Jesus follower, and then second, Indian or British.
My ultimate identity and purpose, comes from whose I am as a child of God. Through the precious blood of Jesus shed on the cross, the way was made possible for me – and every other human – to be reconciled to Father God. My greatest joy and my deepest identity comes from belonging to Him. It’s from that belonging, that I find my purpose in the family of God.
In the church I have the privilege of being a part of, there are more than 30 nations represented. I love the diversity and richness of being part of such a congregation. There is always much to learn from others and their way of life, but the one uniting factor is ultimately Jesus Christ. Jesus gave his life for each of us, in order that we might be reconciled to God, and that we would find our ultimate identity in Him.
The cross provides the way to a new family, a new name, and a significant eternal purpose. The question of identity is answered best in Jesus Christ. Who am I? Am I Indian? Am I British? Yes I am Indian, yes I am British; but I have found that the most satisfying answer, is that I belong to Jesus Christ. I am His, and He is mine.