Rewind. Pause. Push Play. Identity crisis solved.
October 17, 2011 – Aaron Bird
Rewind: Identity. This word has been giving people headaches for centuries. It’s what defines you; it’s who you are. It’s what some people spend their whole lives looking for. According to the Oxford Dictionary identity is the very definition of intuitive: it’s the fact of being who or what a person or thing is, which pretty much says that your identity is you. Yet, we walk around, hanging our heads, full of passion and pain, desperately asking everyone and everything around us for direction. We ask them to do what proves too difficult for us to do on our own; we ask them to define us, to tell us what is at our core. We ask “Where do I fit in? Where am I not wanted? How valuable am I? How insignificant? What purpose do I serve? Where do I fall short? Who am I?” Their answers, however, trap us in a dangerous cycle; they always leave us unsatisfied, which is why we keep asking. Mankind is going through a major identity crisis. It won’t end until we stop asking everything and everyone, and start asking The One.
You want to know who you are?
You are God’s child.
If you’re looking for your identity, that’s it right there, in all of its mysterious, awe-inspiring grandeur: you are God’s child.
There are a couple of things at the center of our identity crisis…
The process of elimination: Even when we feel like we don’t know exactly who we are, we can almost always say something about who we’re not. I am not as smart as him; I am not as pretty as her; I am not as successful as her; I am not as kind as him, etc. There’s a much more scientific, intellectual name for this, but at its core, it’s a process of elimination, similar to the test-taking technique we’re all so familiar with (well, it’s not A or C…). The flaw here, is that it’s completely destructive. Whether it’s intentional or not, you are putting yourself in direct competition with those around you in an attempt to prove you deserve to exist and have value. But, how can you prove that you have value if your your evidence rests completely on all of the things you are not – all of the things you are “missing?”
Belief that actions are your identity: The world around us is constantly saying that what you do is inherently who you are. If you teach, you’re a teacher; if you preach, you’re a preacher; if if you write, you’re a writer; if you farm, you’re a farmer; if you run, you’re a runner; if you succeed, you’re a success. But, the problem here is that what you do is inherently who you are, even when those things are not positive… If you cheat, you’re a cheater; if you lose, you’re a loser; if you quit, you’re a quitter; if you fail, you’re a failure. So, then, if you win the spelling bee, but fail an exam, who are you: a winner or a failure? Or do they cancel out, meaning you are nothing at all?
Take a look at what Paul has to say about our identity crisis:
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:26-29
You see, the truth is, you don’t have to impress anybody. You already have an identity: you are God’s child. And since you are incapable of impressing God, any efforts spent trying to assert your claim to this identity, to prove you are somehow worthy of it, are in vain. You can’t prove anything, which is why God made it so you don’t have to. You belong to God, and you can either embrace that truth, or run from it.
We struggle with this concept because we are constantly looking inward and outward, and never upward. But, the more you get yourself out of the way – the more you let Him have you – the more truly yourself you become. Once your life belongs to Christ, you are completely clothed in this new identity. You have nothing left to prove, because in Christ you have value; you have significance. When you are sure of God – who He is and what He has promised – you are sure of yourself. Our value comes from being loved by the Lord, and our identity is firmly rooted in who God is. Since God never changes, His love never changes, which means that our value never changes. Your importance on this earth never depreciates. You are God’s child.
That is the Gospel. He never changes, so who you are never changes. Again, you can embrace it, or you can run from it, but that doesn’t change it. Do you know who you are?
Pause: Even if it makes you feel silly, read these things out loud. Make them a part of your prayer life today. Write them down. Repeat them to yourself as your falling asleep. Internalize this truth: I am God’s child. We all need a paradigm shift. We all need to see ourselves as God sees us.
I may be angry; I may be happy. I may be big; I may be little. I may be dark skinned; I may be light skinned. I may eat desert first; I may not eat much at all. I may be gorgeous; I may need a little makeup. I am God’s child.
I may love politics; I may hate politics. I may be introverted; I may love people. I may have a job; I may be unemployed. I may like a cold of cup of lemonade; I may like a nice glass of wine. I may marinate and sauté; I may overuse my microwave. I may get straight A’s; I may not remember the last time I got an A. I am God’s child.
I may be single; I may be married. I may like rap; I may only listen to Stephen-Curtis Chapman. I may make lots of money; I may barely make ends meet. I may like dogs; I may like cats. I may have children; I may not have children. I may like pricy lattes; I may only drink tap water. I may have a police record; I may live in fear of taking risks. I am God’s child.
I may have a plan for my life; I may be clueless. I may be successful; I may be struggling. I may be popular; I may always sit by myself. I may believe in global warming; I may think it’s a hoax. I may kiss on the first date; I may wait till marriage. I may like soap operas; I may not own a TV. I may appreciate real books; I may own a kindle. I am God’s child.
I have value. I have worth. I have significance. I am accepted. I am known. I am loved. I have nothing to prove. I am God’s child.
Push Play: Brokenness stems from a grand misunderstanding of ourselves and of the world around us. Lifetimes are wasted in search of abstract answers to concrete questions; we deny simple, clear-cut truths in search of something big enough to fill the void in our souls. We’ve removed certainty from everyday life, preferring the comfort of confusion – no one’s wrong; everyone just has a slightly different, possibly valid, interpretation. In so doing we have made living much harder than it needs to be. We have convinced ourselves that our identities are complicated and intangible and vague and indefinable.
The problem isn’t that our identities are hidden or intrinsically complicated; they’re not even all that abstract. The problem is that we are trying to recreate something that already exists. Ironically, we end up denying our true selves in a vain attempt to find our true selves.
We haven’t always had an identity crisis. The modern concept of individual identity is a relatively new idea – most scholars agree that term and the idea it embodies is probably only a few centuries old. In our efforts to understand the world, to embrace reason, to question and critique and doubt, either to find truth or simply for argument’s sake, we have confused ourselves. We are constantly mistaking lies for truth. “The unity of the self was not a problem so long as the traditional Christian conception of the soul held sway…”* but when we decided God wasn’t necessarily God, when we decided the Gospel was just a nice story, when we relegated Christianity to nothing more than a placeholder – a satisfactory explanation only until the ‘real’ truth can be found… that’s when we lost sight of our identity.
It’s okay to question, and it’s even okay to doubt, but let those questions drive you closer to God, not farther. Don’t believe the lie that man-kind has progressed past the need for God. We will never not need God, and we will never be ourselves without God. If you feel lost, this is what you’re missing.
Your identity is mysterious, but it’s not a mystery. Your identity is beyond comprehension, but it’s not out of reach. Your identity was bought at a high price, but it was freely given to you. Your identity will not be found in this world; it resides above. Your identity is who you are. And who you are, is a child of God.
*Gleason, Philip. “Identifying Identity: A Semantic History.” The Journal of American History. 911 (1983): 910-931. http://www.jstor.org.proxy2.library.illinois.edu/stable/1901196