You Are An Onion - Tony Campolo on us being onions

I had the privilege of hearing Tony Campolo speak at the opening of a youth center in Coldwater, MI.  He told us we were onions.


Tony Campolo tells the story of a college sophomore who entered his office and plopped down in the chair.

He said, "Doc, I've decided to drop out of college."

Campolo, knowing the answer already because he had heard it spring after spring, humored the boy as if he would hear something new and asked, "What’s going on?"

A glassy veil dropped over the student's eyes as he looked longingly out the window of the office as he said,  “I’m going to find myself.  Everyone expects me to be someone I am not.  Friends, college, family, church, society.  They each have expectations of me and definitions of who I need to be.  I need to just get away from it all and find out who I am.  I need to find the real me.”
Campolo just shook his head and asked, "What if, after you peel away all these socially prescribed layers; after you pull away all the layers created by the church and your family and your friends, you discover that you are an onion?"

The young man was stunned.  “An onion?”

Then Campolo continued, "Now that may sound crazy, but what do you get if you peel away all the layers of an onion?  Nothing.  The onion is only the sum total of its layers – there is no center.  Many people will spend their whole life trying to peel away all the layers of their identity only to discover in the end that there is no “real me.”

Our identity - who we are - is not something we find; rather it is something that is created.  It is not something within us; it is something created from
the outside.  Who we are is determined by what we are committed to, who we decide to be – it is determined by what our commitments are.

Many people commit themselves to good things.  But if the good things they commit to are limited to this life, then they are ultimately futile.  When you commit yourself to God and his service, you are working for things that will make an eternal difference.

You are nothing more than the commitments you make.  You are an onion.