Much has been written about the authentic self. We put a lot of mental, emotional, and spiritual energy into connecting with some part of ourselves that is untouched by the world around us. On some level, I think we want to affirm our own uniqueness . . . we want to connect to something pure. But what if it’s all a sham? A baby is quietly formed in darkness . . . in water . . . it’s mind is a devoid of knowledge . . . formless and void. Once she is born, she begins to be formed by her interaction with the world around her. She learns and grows, covered with fingerprints from day one. As adults, it’s tempting to look back at the innocent days of young childhood as the last dying days of our unique self. The harsh, unwelcome reality is that the little girl with blond curls was no more pure or authentic than I am now. Sure, she was more naive . . . untouched by the discordant relationships around her for a time . . . not yet tainted by the cruelties and injustices time would bring. She was not yet broken, and unaware of the slow chipping process that had begun. But she was not authentic, not in the truest sense of the word. Her only real uniqueness lies in the mind of God, in His idea of her before she ever took on human flesh. And as He knit her together in the womb of an 18-year old, unmarried girl who had her own scars to bear, he knew she would be formed by the world around her from the moment of her birth . . . and he was okay with that. God has always been in a cooperative relationship with humankind. Even in this, the cycle of humans begetting human flesh, He shines in it’s midst, taking dreams of beautiful souls, and placing them inside these fleshly bodies, allowing them to be transformed by time and experiences. To those who would say we are God-like, I say yes . . . yes, we are – created in His image and likeness . . . His are the first fingerprints we bear. And to those who would say we are wretched, ruined creatures, I say yes – we are tainted from the beginning . . . and we chip and crack . . . and we are broken. Maybe the trick isn’t to look for an authentic self somewhere deep inside or down the long, lonely road back to childhood. Maybe the answer is to accept the truth that we are born a mixture of the Divine and the profane, and that the struggle is both our brokenness and our salvation. We have hope, because we know He holds all the broken pieces, and He has not forgotten who we are in His eyes.