In a poem that begins, “I’m nobody! Who are you?” Emily Dickinson playfully challenges all the effort people tend to put into being “somebody,” advocating instead for the joyful freedom of blissful anonymity. For “How dreary – to be – Somebody! How public – like a Frog – / To tell one’s name – the livelong June / To an admiring Bog!”
Finding freedom in letting go of the need to be “somebody” in some ways echoes the testimony of the apostle Paul. Before he met Christ, Paul had a long list of seemingly impressive religious credentials and achievements, apparent “reasons to put confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:4).
But encountering Jesus changed everything. When Paul saw how hollow his religious fervor and achievements were in light of Christ’s sacrificial love, he confessed, “I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. . . I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him” (vv. 8–9). His only remaining ambition was “to know Christ . . . the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (v. 10).
It’s dreary, indeed, to attempt on our own to become “somebody.” But as Paul discovered, to know Jesus, to lose ourselves in His self-giving love and life, is to find ourselves again (v. 9), finally free and whole.