Everyone, at some point, goes through some sort of crisis of identity. And whenever we find ourselves in such a crisis of identity, we grasp for names. What do I call myself? Who am I? This goes so much deeper than just our given name, or whatever name we want to assume. I'm referring to identifiers. Things that tell people what we like, our preferred style of dress, the types of music we listen to, or even who we love. Sometimes identity crises happen in several phases, and a person will shift from one identifier to another over the course of several weeks or months or maybe even years.
I believe this is true of crises of spiritual identity as well. Suddenly, we find ourselves all grown up, without our parents pushing us into Sunday School or learning the Catechism or participating in whatever practices our home tradition consisted of. Suddenly, we're on our own. And while we might have a leg to stand on, with whatever memorized scripture still clings to our brains, or whatever prayers escape our lips in moments of trouble, we suddenly find ourselves wondering, "What if there is truth somewhere else?" (You can add "instead" or "also" to the end of that sentence. Either way, it is an open door to exploration.)
Sometimes, the names we search for are other names of our own home religion or faith. For example, if a Christian who was raised Southern Baptist goes through a crisis of spiritual identity, she might start searching in other denominations to find what she believes is Truth. She might consider herself Methodist, or Episcopal, or Non-Denominational. Sometimes, those identifiers we choose are outside of our home faith. Maybe she considers Buddhism, or even Atheism.
I know this because I have gone through a crisis of spiritual identity. I grew up sampling from many different denominations of the Christian faith without fully indulging any of them. And so, as an adult, I found myself looking around and wondering, "What in the world is going on?" I was confused. (I won't say that I am no longer confused. I think we're always a little confused.) So I started thinking about what I believe, outside the framework of a faith. Getting down below all the structures that had been built in my life to support this Christian faith I grew up with. What do I believe? Really really, deep in my soul?
I have tried on (though never worn out of the store) many names over the last several years, but I have come to the conclusion that I only need one.
I have realized that the faith I have is not in a system or a set of beliefs. It is not in something that can be written down on paper, recited, memorized. It's not a code of conduct or recipe for how to live.
It is Jesus Christ.
I am sometimes leery of saying "Christian," because it feels like such a loose term nowadays. It's lost so much of its depth of meaning. I have used "Christ-follower" in its place quite often, because I feel like it relays the deeper message of imitating Christ. "Christian" just feels, to me, so wishy-washy anymore. Those people who picket funerals and make it a point to spread hate (I refuse to name them) call themselves Christians. Oftentimes the term "Christian" is assumed by people who merely hold a general belief in the God of the bible.
My beliefs may be lived out differently than yours, even if we both claim to follow Jesus. But the thing I know for sure is that, no matter what the framework, if I claim his name, my life should look an awful lot like his. (Not, necessarily, like the lives of other people who claim to be Christians.)
So I will just stick with Christ. I believe in Jesus Christ.
That is the only name I need.