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Story

By Eric A. Clayton

At first, they thought I was 18 years old — I was wearing a hat, so my gray hair was hidden.

Then they found out I had two kids, so they immediately rounded my age up to 45. Which, I guess makes sense. They finally saw that gray hair and the perpetual luggage I carry under my eyes. (Though let the record show they were more than a decade off.)

Someone thought I was a widower based upon which hand I wear my wedding ring on — and a Polish tradition.

Lots of folks thought I was Spanish or Portuguese. I even got a few folks thinking I was Brazilian. That was all, of course, before I opened my mouth. Because, sure, folks thought I was a native speaker of Spanish or Portuguese — until I proceeded to butcher the language in question.

And of course, plenty of people thought I was a Jesuit priest. Which made sense — I was representing the Jesuit Conference at Magis, that worldwide gathering of the Ignatian family I wrote about last week.

But the thing everyone accused me of being— even before I revealed the source of those bags beneath my eyes (read: two daughters) — was a dad.

Was it the high quality of my jokes? 100%

Was it because I was constantly reminding the students in my group not to forget their sunscreen in the blistering Spanish sun? Most likely.

Maybe it was because I was consistently glancing over my shoulder, counting the number of people in our group, determined not to lose anyone even though no one was at risk of being lost and I was not in charge of anything.

At any rate, once my group learned that I had kids, it was more of, “Oh, that makes sense. Of course he does. His jokes were terrible!” No one was shocked.

Here’s the thing: I am a dad. It’s pretty intrinsic to who am at this moment in life. Even when I’m not with my own kids, those dad tendencies spill over. It’s part of the becoming that God has invited me to. It was inevitable and not to be helped.

I do what I am — even without realizing it.

And so, as we cast about for who we are and who we are meant to be, perhaps the answer is already clear. Perhaps God is already revealing that self to us — through our very selves. Through what we do, those daily actions that we are tempted to shrug off.

God is there, intimately present, both pulling our truest selves forth and pushing the Spirit at work within us to shine ever more brightly.

It’s not just dad jokes. It’s those little things you do, the things the catch your attention and send butterflies scurrying about in your stomach. It’s the phrase just there on the tip of your tongue and the glances you share with others.

There. God is at work in you. You are at work in God. The many masks we wear, the many mistaken identities we adopt — they can all fall away as we better allow ourselves to do what we already are.

This reflection is part of the award-winning weekly email series, “Now Discern This.” If you’d like to get reflections like this one directly in your inbox every Wednesday, sign up here.

a person smiling for the cameraEric A. Clayton is the award-winning author of Cannonball Moments: Telling Your Story, Deepening Your Faith (Loyola Press) and the deputy director of communications at the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States. His essays on spirituality, parenting and pop culture have appeared in America MagazineNational Catholic ReporterU.S. Catholic, Busted Halo and more, and he is a regular contributor to Give Us This Day, IgnatianSpirituality.com and Dork Side of the Force, where he blogs about Star Wars. His fiction has been published by Black Hare Press, the World of Myth Magazine and more. He lives in Baltimore, MD with his wife, two young daughters and their cat, Sebastian. Sign up for his Substack “Story Scraps” here.