As human beings, we constantly try to make sense of the world around us. From an early age, our parents give us names for important things: blanket, ball, dog, dolly. As we grow older, we learn to classify plants and animals. We learn about the different nations and cultures. We try to make sense of people by classifying them into different religions, cultures, sub-cultures, personality types, races, etc. Eventually, we give ourselves labels—or identities—to help us discover where we fit into the world around us.
We identify ourselves by many different things:
· Marital status
· Economic status
· Ethnic group
· Sexual orientation
· Life experiences: tragedy, abuse, hardship
Sometimes our identities were given to us at birth. I was born from a European heritage. My skin resists tanning like water repels oil. My temperament is strikingly similar to others in my family. I was born with tendencies to struggle in certain areas of sin.
Some identities come to us through choices. I chose to marry my husband. We chose to have children. We choose, to some extent, where we live and what we do for a living.
Some identities are forced upon us. I am in that unfortunate group of women who have had a miscarriage. I survived my husband’s bout with serious illness.
I can choose to “camp out” on my earthly identity. For example, I can put all my hopes and dreams into my children. I can lose myself by focusing only on being a wife. I can let my burnt skin keep me indoors. I can major on those sins that constantly trip me up. I can let last year’s experience with serious illness define me.
But these identities will not sustain me. My children and husband will let me down. I really can’t blame genetics for my sin struggles. (I must ultimately take responsibility for my actions!) Dwelling on last year’s trials will only keep me from enjoying the blessings of today.
So now what?? Is there something better?? Can I get a new identity to replace this shallow one??
YES!! My true identity is found in Jesus. He wants to make me the best “me” I can be. He wants to redeem all my good identities and all my not-so-good ones…and turn them into a beautiful composite of my frailty and His grace.
Paul, the apostle, also had a mix of good identities and not-so-good identities. He was a Jew who followed the law meticulously. He had a prestigious position in society. He had a dramatic face-to-face meeting with Jesus. He was given special messages from God.
He said about these things….
“I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord. For His sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with Him.”—Philippians 3:7-9a (NLT)
He was also prone to suffering. He was ashamed of the way he persecuted Christians before he met Jesus. He spent much time in jail. He was beaten. He had a chronic illness that caused him much suffering. After many struggles, Paul eventually surrendered the hard parts of his life so that he could fully embrace Christ.
“..To keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time He said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”—2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (NLT)
Let’s surrender our human identities to the One who made us. He has something much better for us! Whether it is something that makes you proud, or something that makes you ashamed, bring it to Jesus. He can do so much better than our best. He wants to take the best and worst of us and transform it into something more beautiful than we could have imagined.
Are you ready to find out who you REALLY are???
In part 2, we will discover who God says we are.