Several months ago, my family rented a popular, animated movie about a young girl who was preparing to be the leader of her people on a peaceful island, yet struggled with the temptation to explore the open ocean which was “calling her.”
To be honest, I wasn’t actually engaged in this movie. I was in the room, but my attention was fixed on my phone, which is an accurate description of what my life had become. I was present in my family, but increasingly selfish and distracted by anything that made me feel I had purpose. My phone was the greatest god I served, which is ironic, since this movie is filled with Polynesian paganism and mythology. As I was halfheartedly reminding my children that we serve the one true God; comparing and contrasting Christianity with mythology, and explaining that the Ten Commandments tell us to have “no other gods,” I was steadily scrolling through Facebook. I was no different than the girl in the movie. I knew I was to be the leader of my children and the heart of my home, yet I struggled with the “open ocean that was calling me.”
My children were engulfed in the action as this adventurous girl set sail in search of a selfish, shapeshifting demigod who would guide her in becoming a master way-finder. During their journey to fulfill the ancient quest of her ancestors, they faced failure and impossible obstacles as they sought to return the stolen heart of a once beautiful island that was known in the beginning to bring forth life and prosperity.
However, I missed all of this because my head was still stuck in my phone... until the moment the brave girl faced the giant lava monster at the very end. After a brush with death on the charred shores of the former island of beauty, the heroine realized the lava monster was actually who she was looking for all along. When the heart was taken from the island, a slow death had begun to creep into the ocean and the island had transformed into an unrecognizable monster who she had unknowingly been battling. Before returning the heart, she tamed the beast with a beautiful song:
I have crossed the horizon to find you
I know your name
They have stolen the heart from inside you
But this does not define you
This is not who you are
You know who you are.
I put my phone down. I let those words settle on me. I watched intently as the molten monster disappeared and the island was restored with new life and incomparable beauty. In the end, the daring girl discovered her own identity, which is the one thing she was truly desperate to find. Although, at the time, I missed that, too. My focus was still on the last line of her song, “You know who you are.” This is what I had also been struggling with for years.
My mind immediately thought of an elderly man in the church that I grew up in. He had grown up in a Jewish home and had a very thick accent. Every Sunday morning from my freshman year until my senior year of high school, he would meet me on the stairway after Sunday School and ask me, “Do you know who you are?” My response was always the same. “Yes, Sir. I’m Nanette’s daughter.”
My mom was the church secretary. He knew her well. He knew me! I couldn’t understand why he would ask me that every Sunday for four years. I had begun to think he was “slipping.” I felt both sorrow and compassion for him.
On the day of my senior recognition, he caught me on the stairway and asked me once more. I responded in the same, respectful manner as I always had and smiled at him, as I continued on my way. He stopped me and said, “Whitney Yarber. You are Nanette’s daughter. But one day when you answer, I am a child of the King...that’s when you will know who you are.”
I couldn’t move. I was embarrassed. The answer that he had wanted all along was so simple. How had I missed that? The problem was, for over ten years that followed that conversation, my answer would have still been, “Sure, I know who I am. I am a Christian, daughter, wife, mother, sister, granddaughter, aunt, and friend. I am an author, a former teacher, a stay-at-home mom, an athlete, a homeschool teacher, a preacher’s wife, and on and on...but never once would I have boldly answered, “I’m a child of the King.”
In the months that followed, I wrestled with that. I realized that I had let sin steal the heart that was inside me. A slow death had begun to creep within me, as well. I hated who I had become. I knew that my actions did not define me. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus would move Heaven and Earth to find me and restore me...all I had to do was believe.
The process was not easy. It was painful actually. I had to stop looking at Facebook and open up God’s Book. I had to shed my distractions and focus on the Deliverer. But I’m happy to say, that God took a heart of stone and made it new. He turned ashes into beauty! I am so thankful for the influence of that persistent, godly man in my church long ago. He was far from “slipping.” He was right on. I wish he was alive today, so that I could find him and confidently say, “I am Whitney White. I am a child of the King. It’s been a long, hard journey, but I finally know who I am.”
Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.