Who am I? Noah Seth Eversole. Musician, lawyer in the making, writer, disciple of Christ, comic book enthusiast, amateur chef, American, Michigander, New Yorker, dog dad, son, brother, friend, caucasian, male, human being, and the list goes on. All of the aforementioned are things I identify with, at least on some level. In a world where identity is becoming ever more fluid, I thought it would be appropriate to write out my thoughts on identity, ego, pride, and unity. This question, "who am I?" is one I have pondered quite a bit recently in the wake of rededicating my life to Christ. It took a lot of self-reflection to conclude that I needed to change fundamental things about myself and how I was living. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, anyone who is in Christ is a "new creation," and so I found myself wondering where that left me, or who I knew myself to be. Unlike Paul, who changed his name after converting to the Christian faith, I didn't change my name. Nor did I get a new wardrobe or a tattoo or do anything else to change my perceived identity. And while I have turned over a new leaf and have begun once again to diligently practice my faith, this time with more conviction than ever before, this concept of "me," Noah Eversole that is, still lives on in my head and in the head of those who know me.
When I was a kid, I was just about the biggest Detroit Pistons basketball fan you could find. An unknowing passerby might have mistaken my childhood bedroom for some sort of shrine to the team. It was wall-to-wall with Piston's decor. Posters of the 2004 championship team, a foam finger from the time I got courtside tickets for my birthday, a Detroit Pistons logo handpainted as the centerpiece of the decorations. I'm pretty sure I have an autographed basketball lying around my parent's house in Michigan as well. And as if that wasn't convincing enough, my email handle at the time, "Ripfan@hotmail.com" (perhaps dating myself a bit here, not sure if Hotmail is still a thing), derived its name from my favorite player, Richard "Rip" Hamilton. Pistons fandom was truly a part of my identity. But perhaps I am one of those loathsome fairweather fans because I couldn't tell you the last time I sat down to watch a Pistons game, not even sure I know anyone on the team these days. Over the years, my identity paradigm has shifted more towards college athletics (Go Blue!), my favorite music (if you know me well, you know I never hesitate to share my music taste with someone), the pursuit of higher education, and being a disciple. I mention my lost Pistons fandom and these other identity shifts because it is evidence that who "I" am conceptually is capable of changing. More specifically, the things I identify with.
Maybe you now find yourself saying, "Okay, Noah, great, we all know that people change. You're no longer a Pistons fan, so what? What's the big deal?" Well, I'm glad you asked! You see, the big deal is that I have a demonstrated track record of changing significant aspects of my identity paradigm, and this being the case, I began to wonder why I didn't see the sort of cataclysmic overhaul of "me" one might expect when becoming a "new" creation. As I pondered this dilemma a bit more, I began to have a crisis of sorts, no longer entirely sure of who or what I was. Much like Alice on her grand adventure, I found myself tumbling down a rabbit hole at breakneck speeds wanting to get to the bottom of what it is I had become as a "new" Noah.
The first thing I did was dive into the original language (Greek) to better understand what Paul was trying to say when he said someone is "new." In the English vernacular, or at least in my English vernacular, when we say something is new, we usually refer to newness relative to time, meaning how long we have had it or how long it has existed. For example, when we buy a new pair of sneakers or get a new car (even if it's used), they are new to us because we have recently acquired them. In Greek, the word for new is kainē. I find it noteworthy that while the Greek word does refer to newness in terms of time, the emphasis in the use of the word, when compared to something of the same kind, in this case, people, is on quality - not time. Hence, the emphasis of kaine in 2 Corinthians 5:17 is on people being better rather than being newer. But I would be doing a disservice to the diligent disciple name if I didn't dig a bit further, so let's look at a few more examples of the word kaine across the new testament.
In Matthew 9:16-17, we see this word pop up in one of Christ's parables. The passage reads in part: "Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out, and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved." In the 21st-century, people don't need to rely on animal skins to hold their wine (it's the little things, am I right?), but folks weren't as fortunate back in the day. Fermented drinks like wine expand as they age, so old wineskins would have been stretched out by the previous wine and therefore would tear if someone poured new wine into the skins. In this passage, the difference in the wineskins isn't their age (although that is implied). Rather, the difference is in their quality and appropriateness for completing the intended task (preserving the wine). Important also is the context in which Christ is telling this parable. Here, Jesus is making a specific point about the arrival of the new covenant that will unify the world through Him. We see a more direct reference to this covenant using the word kaine in Hebrews 8:8, where Paul is quoting Jerimiah 31:31-34 saying: "Look, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will complete a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah." I will come back to address what makes this new covenant under Christ better later on. For now, just keep in mind that here at the diligent disciple, "new" is synonymous with better.
Now, if you don't remember, the topic at hand is identity (also pride, ego, and unity, we are getting there, just trust the process) so let's get back into it. Getting wrapped up in the fabric of my identity reminded me of an old thought experiment on the subject known as the Ship of Theseus. Originally debated by philosophers of old such as Plato and Heraclitus, the experiment explores the concept of identity by imagining the ship of the great war hero Theseus as it was reconstructed over many years. It is supposed that the ship was kept as a museum piece, and over the years, some of the wooden planks began to rot and were replaced by new ones; then, after a century or so, every part had been replaced. The question then is whether the "restored" ship is still the same object as the original. If it is, then suppose the removed pieces were stored in a warehouse, and after the century, technology was developed that cured their rot and enabled them to be reassembled into a ship. Is this "reconstructed" ship the original ship? If it is, then what about the restored ship in the harbor still being the original ship as well? Many great thinkers and philosophers have opined on this thought experiment, and if you are interested, I encourage you to read up on it and come up with an opinion of your own! I only mention this experiment to give you some necessary context for our discussion.
It dawned on me that perhaps the concept of "Noah" and the Ship of Theseus are not dissimilar (that is the point of the experiment, after all). Much like the ship, I have changed many things about myself over the years. I lost my hair, gained some weight, went to law school, outgrew my pistons fandom, and so on. At no point during this time, up until my recent baptism, that is, did I ever question if I was still me. Surely if you replaced only one rotten plank on the ship, you wouldn't debate whether or not it was the same ship. Whether or not you agree on whether the ship maintains its identity over the course of the reconstructive process, I am sure most would agree that the "new" ship is better, seeing as it will actually be able to continue functioning as a ship. What I'm getting at here is that perhaps my baptism and ongoing commitment to diligently practice my faith is just what I needed to rid myself of all my rotten pieces. While I might be theoretically the same Noah that I have always been, it seems I was due up for a little bit of reconstruction in my life. At this point in the rabbit hole, I began to wonder what exactly my rotten pieces were. If I'm honest, I would say I am rather fond of myself; and the more I thought about it, the more obvious it became that this fondness of myself, this attachment to the ideals of "Noah" with which I had become so familiar, might be in and of itself a rotten plank on the hull of my persona.
Pride. It is quite evident from the scripture that God despises pride. It is a flaw in human character that we develop to mentally distance ourselves from the people we don't relate to. Unfortunately, one of the consequences of my continuous pursuit of education is that I tend to hold tightly to my own opinions, even to the point of lacking consideration for others. And while my pride usually doesn't surface itself as the typical egotistical maniac boastful about my successes, it still manages to wreak havoc in more subtle ways. Not to mention the modern fixation on social media that has me dopamine-dependent on whether my friends think my dog looks cute in his new Halloween costume. Perhaps Isak Dinesen said it best in Out of Africa that people "accept as success what others warrant to be so, and take their happiness, even their own selves, at the quotation of the day. They tremble, with reason, before their fate." As an artist (I write and record music, check me out here), it's easy to get wrapped up in promoting your own ideas. I don't just create content for the sake of its creation. I do want people to listen, learn, and engage with my content. At the other end of my art, including this very blog, is me. A living, breathing, peopling, human being. The more time I have invested into trying to understand my motivations for doing any of the things that I do (going to school, making music, posting on Instagram, writing this blog), the more I have come to realize that pride is a much larger motivating factor for me than I would like to admit. Paul says in Corinthians to do ALL things for the glory of God, and so I had to ask myself if God's glory was at the forefront of my mind as an artist and as a human being in general. If my "motives are weighed by the Lord," as Proverbs 16:2 says, then I ought to be diligent in devising what convinces me to commit my time to the things I commit it to. And at this point in the rabbit hole, I found myself convicted, not entirely sure how much of me had become rotten over the years. How much of my time had I invested into making myself respected, admired, appreciated, and loved by people? Not God, but people. And certainly not for the glory of God.
In Jewish culture, there is something known as the Yetzer Hara, or the evil inclination. In their understanding, every person on Earth is born with this inclination to violate the will of God. In traditional Judaism, the Yetzer Hara is not a demonic force but rather man's misuse of things the physical body needs to survive. Thus, the need for food becomes gluttony due to the Yetzer Hara. The need for procreation becomes promiscuity. The need for acceptance becomes pride, and so on. In my sinful nature, I like to indulge my Yetzer Hara. I very much enjoy being right. For the most part, being a lawyer is all about convincing people that you are right, so it has become second nature for me. It's not that I am not open to other points of view, just that I typically value other opinions much less than my own, primarily because of the way I view my thought process. Of course, the bible says not to lean on our own understanding, and I'll be the first to admit this isn't a pretty picture I am painting of myself, but admitting that you have a problem is often the first step on the road to recovery. And so, as I acknowledged my pride (one of my many rotten planks), I began the humbling process of reconstructing my identity in Christ.
So, how do I stop identifying with the wrong me? The me who I have become so fond of. The me who indulges his Yetzer Hara, who cares more about others' opinions of me than God's opinion of me. Well, that requires me to take a step back and view myself from the perspective of God. So please bear with me as this discussion transitions to the realm of the intangible. The truth is that there is no clear-cut method to eroding the ego I have developed over the past 25 years. To clarify, when I say "ego," I simply mean my idea of self. The part of my conscious mind that I consider to be "me." But trying to view myself from God's perspective has proven to be a fruitful exercise.
I suppose to see ourselves in the eyes of God would be to see our lives drawn out in their full context in the universe. As Alan Watts put it: "to realize that your "self" is not your ego, which is the standpoint at which you are involved in your game and taking sides. Your "self" is the eternal, immeasurable reality that is what there is." I can sense my readers rolling their eyes as I write this, but let me unpack this a bit. As people, we are so much more than just what our conscious mind considers. Just think about when you breathe, or look out at the stars, or taste that bite of your delicious five-layer burrito from Taco Bell. You aren't telling your body how to do any of these things; you simply do them, and yet they are still a fundamental aspect of your daily life. If I asked you to explain how you breathe or how you see, you likely couldn't even put words to it. For me, it is humbling to think about how little I (Noah Eversole) am truly capable of doing on my own. I drive a car that I didn't build, with gas that I didn't drill up and refine, on roads that I didn't plan or develop. I am writing this blog on a computer I didn't design, which I barely even understand the mechanics of, not to mention the internet. These are just a few examples of the many ways in which I am just an infinitesimal passenger traveling along on God's creation.
In the same light, I think of the role that we play in our salvation. At the cross, if nowhere else, is where my pride must die. In Ephesians 1:10, Paul writes to the church that "unity to all things in heaven and on earth" were brought through the blood of Christ. In Greek, the word he uses is anakephalaiosasthai. The first word ana is used to add intensity to whatever follows, similar to how we use the word "very" in English (as in "it's very cold outside today"). After that is Kephala, which means "to bring to a head, or, an organizing center." To anakephalaiosasthai, means to bring all things together under one head. It can be easy to overlook a phrase like this, especially in an age where people choose their words so frivolously that every new thing becomes "amazing" or "epic." But the crux of this phrase is that ALL THINGS are unified through the blood of Christ. This isn't Paul just rolling off some careless hyperbole, but him tactfully letting us know that all men and women (and their shortcomings) were made equal through Christ's sacrifice. And Christ, the great unifier, is precisely what makes the "new" covenant better. Gone are the days are animal sacrifices and high priests and here are the days in which everyone can find union with God through Christ.
When I think of my role in the crucifixion of Christ, I am forced to think about how my iniquities, and the iniquities of my fellow man, are what brought him to the cross. Christ was handed over "by God's deliberate plan and foreknowledge,"; and it was people just like you and me that nailed Him to the cross. Why was he willing to give His life? So that you and I could have some way to repent for indulging our Yetzer Hara, a way to unify us with our creator, a way to rewrite thousands of years of human shortcomings. Through Christ, the rotten planks of humanity were pulled up and restored to their former glory. The tragedy of innocence is that it could have been and was not, but in Christ, there is hope. And so with that, I've come to the conclusion that as a human being, equally to blame for the death of Christ, whose blood was shed to cover my transgressions against God almighty, surely, I have nothing to be proud of. So, I leave you, having voiced my opinions, with this quote from Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. "I desire no disciples; but if there happened to be someone at my deathbed, and I was sure that the end had come, then I might in an attack of philanthropic delirium, whisper my theory in their ear, uncertain whether I had done them a service or not."
Until next time,