Unknown: when the truth about who we are disappoints us

Like many in lockdown UK David and I are raiding our DVD library and rewatching old films. This reflection only contains one slight plot spoiler for this excellent film ‘Unknown’ with Liam Neeson in the lead role

In the story Liam’s character arrives in Berlin and has an accident. He comes round after 4 days in a coma having lost his memory but then regains his memory only to discover that the identity he believes to be his has been taken by someone else. He loses his wife, his role, his status, his papers, his reason for being in Berlin and feels like he is losing his mind.

Liam Neeson

Everything he thought he knew about himself is challenged.

There comes a moment in the film (and here is the slight plot spoiler) when the truth of who he really is comes back to him. Partly he remembers and partly it is revealed to him but this turns out not to be a good moment.

It’s a terrible moment because ‘who he really is’ turns out to be deeply disappointing, he is morally compromised, neither noble nor good.

Deeply disturbed by this dawning reality, he sits in a bus shelter with the inevitable female lead character he has gathered along the way and stares into the abyss of self-knowledge.

And then she says the MOST PROFOUND THING EVER!!

“It’s what you do now that matters”

Wow! Just WOW!

This is what God says to us. Never mind what’s in the past, don’t live today out of a ‘truth’ that describes you as a failure, or a victim, a traitor or simply a disappointment’. It isn’t that you aren’t those things – you are- of course you are, we all are. But ‘it’s what you do now that matters’.

Right here and now, you have the chance to offer that broken, limited and fragile self to God. It may not be your ‘best self’ but it’s all you’ve got, it’s your only self, offer it to God anyway and let what you do now be all that matters.

I have recently re-read the story of Peter’s betrayal in Matthew’s gospel. I’ve also been reading ‘Ruthless Trust’ by Brennan Manning. Jesus (and Brennan) would agree ‘it’s what you do now that matters’. Jesus called you knowing all your weaknesses, character defects, inherited traits, he knows the chips on your shoulder, your background story and your baggage.

Brennan would say that Jesus expects more failure from you than you ever expect from yourself but that is not the point, in fact it’s almost incidental to THE POINT! THE POINT is that God loves you and calls you, just as you are and radical trust is ‘the courage to accept that acceptance’ (Paul Tillich).

Even if you are young and not too sure who you are yet, or if you are older and afraid that you have forgotten who you are or who you are meant to me, even if who you are feels like a shabby shadow of who you would like to be. Jesus stands in front of you and says: ‘You – Follow – Me’

It’s what you do now that matters.

When you respond to that call, you will become (little by little) the best version of yourself, the one who God has always been lovingly crafting you towards being. But along the way, there will many more moments when you will again feel so far away from being that ‘best self’ that you will be tempted to give up but always remember:

It’s what you do now that matters.

Make the choice to trust in God’s acceptance of you and the choice to cultivate a practice of gratitude day by day (because these two are the shortest paths to God*) and this has the power to transform the desert of feeling you are




Same letters, utterly different place.

And this transformation is not by some superhuman effort of pulling yourself by your own bootstraps but by making the choice moment by moment to place your whole self, ruthlessly without pretence, your fractured, broken, disappointed self in God’s hands and then take your focus away from that self, (the true meaning of ‘deny yourself’ and ‘death to self’) and live trustingly and gratefully in in God’s acceptance of you. You can safely believe he will do the rest: ‘a broken and contrite heart he will not despise’ (Psalm 34:18)

The two thoughts marked * are not original to me but are from Brennan Manning’s book Ruthless Trust

Below is a trailer for the film

https://sheilabridgeblog.com/2021/02/19/giving-up-fear-for-lent/ And this is where I have reflected some more on books by Brennan Manning

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