The Rev. Geoffrey Butcher, Priest-in-Charge Trinity Episcopal Church, Russellville

When we were young we tended to be less introspective about our lives and may have thought of ourselves as well put together. It's only later in life that we begin to examine who we are - where we have been and how we would like to live in the future. Some who reflect on this issue discover that they are leading a divided life or double life. For the public, they present one image of their identity, but secretly that identity does not match the person inside. Wearing a mask for others becomes a burden making them feel lonely inside. They ask, "Would people love me if they knew who I truly am?"

We often hide our true identities from each other. We are afraid, as Parker Palmer puts it, "that our inner light will be extinguished or our inner darkness exposed." Some live with this fear for years; but when on retreat or a vacation there may be a respite when one doesn't have to be anyone but one's self. Being away gives a chance to listen to that inner "still, small voice" of God speaking in the depths of one's heart. This voice already knows who we are, so there is no need to put on a front. And even when the divided life is discovered with its light and darkness, the voice says, "I love you and want you to be whole." With this assurance, one may venture out to imagine what it would be like to be whole - to be only one person. The risk is that our inner darkness would be exposed, and our light challenged, but we wouldn't have to pretend to be someone we're not. We could say goodbye to the unwelcome guest of our identity.

This divided life is felt by business executives who feel obligated to maintain a strong public image by achieving success for their company and themselves. The sensitive element of their lives, however, may be turned off. They become tough when they wish they could be gentle. Housewives sometimes feel they are missing out on life when their home life and volunteering prevents them from developing a career that is seeking expression. Young adults are challenged to come to terms with their sexual identity, struggling to live out what they are supposed to be even if they discover they are gay.

Learning to be honest to God and to ourselves is a lifelong project, but it's worth the risk to become whole inside. Our pretending will be found out sooner or later. God only wants the person we are, not the one we pretend to be. To achieve this end we need the humility to accept our gifts and talents - the light and the dark side of our personalities as well. Acceptance of the dark side will keep us humble and honest.

You may wish you were someone else, but as a Yiddish proverb says, "If I try to be like him, who will be like me?" And as a learned holy rabbi once told his disciples, "When I get to heaven God isn't going to ask me, 'Rabbi Yosef, why weren't you more like Moses?' No, God will ask me, 'Rabbi Yosef, why weren't you more like the Yosef whom I created?'"

May God help us to become the person we were created be.