Last week (Lies) we talked about lies and how the lies we believe about ourselves keep us from seeing ourselves as God does. After you take some time to identify the lies that have kept you from seeing yourself more clearly….
We then need to take a look at where we are finding our identity.
Before diving in, let’s establish our definition of identity. It’s one of those words that we innately understand, yet struggle to define. According to Merriam Webster, identity is “the distinguishing character or personality of an individual.” It’s who we are at our core. It’s the place from where we make our decisions. The definition itself does not sound complicated, but most people I know (myself included) do not find their identity to be simple and straightforward. It feels complicated and unsteady. It feels like it’s always evolving and changing.
It feels that way because we tend to find it in the wrong places.
We all find our identity in a variety of places. We are defined by who our friends are, how good we are at a sport or our job title. We are defined by the roles we assume and the parts that we play.
I tend to find my identity in my job.
When I was 13, I felt a strong calling from God into vocational ministry (meaning I get paid to do ministry). No matter how much I give my time and talents to others, if I’m not getting paid for it, I can easily feel insignificant and insecure. It’s like if I’m not getting paid to do ministry, I feel like I’m wasting my life and my calling.
I’m currently in a job transition. Because I don’t want to act out of impulse or desperation, I decided I would substitute teach while I waited for what was next. Every time someone asks me what I do for work, I pause and have to bite my tongue. I want to go into a 20 minute explanation of why I am substitute teaching and make sure they know it is just temporary. But then I take a deep breath and say with as much confidence as I can “I am a substitute teacher.” Period. No explanation. I know there is nothing wrong with being a substitute teacher. I only have to work 2 days a week and I have full control over my schedule. But somewhere down the line I started to believe if I was not getting paid to do ministry, then I didn’t match up. My identity has become rooted in my job status.
I also find my identity in being a runner. I am proud of my accomplishments as a runner and my identity is deeply tied to my ability to run. When I can’t run, I feel lost. I also tend to link my identity to my parenting. My joy and happiness rises and falls on the accomplishments and behaviors of my children – the good and the bad.
It’s okay for me to enjoy running, to have a passion to serve in ministry or a desire to be a good parent. It becomes a problem when my value as a person rises and falls based on the failures and successes of those things in which I have placed value. When that happens, it is a sign to me that I have replaced my value with what I value.
Let me give you an example. Say that you have always been the best runner on the team. For whatever reason, you have a rough season. You could react one of two ways. 1. You could feel sad and disappointed, which are natural and acceptable emotions. You feel disappointed about the season, but you don’t feel disappointed in yourself. You value running, but your value isn’t based on you being a runner. 2. You could be devastated and feel like you are a failure. You quit. You feel like if you can’t win, you probably shouldn’t try. That is a sign that you have placed your value on what you value.
It’s no wonder our identity feels complicated and unsteady. It feels that way because we have placed our value on things that are uncertain, evolving and ever changing. In doing that we smudge our lenses. We stop seeing ourselves as God does, instead we see ourselves through the lenses of the roles we assume and the parts we play.
And we will continue to feel that way until our identity is rooted in the one who does not change. This is the one who is certain, consistent and true.
So how do we know when we have a misplaced identity? And how do we find our identity in Christ?
First, check your filters. I believe that God has given us two different filters to use as we seek to find the truth:
1. Our emotions. Yes, our emotions. Our anger, our discouragement, and our despair can be our teachers. Let’s use the previous running example. You had a bad season. Do you feel disappointed or sad? Those are appropriate emotions. Do you feel depressed and useless? If so, you have probably set your value on something you value. Our emotional reactions are a direct result of the condition of our heart. Let your reactions and your emotions help guide you.
2. God’s word. He tells us we are fearfully and wonderfully made. He has promised us that he has a purpose and a plan for our lives. He has given us the power over fear and he has called us his friend. He says that we are more than conquerors and that in him we are new creations. Those are just a few of the many ways God sees us. So when we feel contrary to God’s truth about ourselves, it’s time to take note. Somewhere along the way we started to internalize a lie or misplacef our value. In turn, our lenses got smudged. When that happens, we no longer can see ourselves like God does.
After checking your filters, it’s time to get to work.
Romans 12:2 tells us “do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Renew is an action word. I think as Christians we often read God’s word and want whatever we read to just happen. But more often than not, we have to put the work in. Renew means to replace something old. It’s super hard work. But in order to see ourselves like God does, we have to replace the lies and values that we have allowed to smudge our lenses and replace them with the truth about who God says we are. To do that, we start by using the filters. Again, ask yourself, what are your emotions revealing to you about the lies you believe? What are your reactions communicating to you? How do your feelings about yourself match up with the truth in God’s word?
Write down what you notice. Make a list. List out all the things that are smudging your view. Then next to them, write the truth.
Lie: I feel like a failure. Truth: I made a mistake but I am fearfully and wonderfully made
Lie: I am too scared. Truth: I do NOT have to live under the spirit of fear. I am more than a conqueror.
Carry your list around. Pause through the day and run things through the filters. And then speak truth to those lies. Remind yourself where your value lies. Then do that again – and again – and again until you find that you are no longer looking at yourself with smudged lenses. You will start to see someone who is fearfully and wonderfully made, who does not live under the spirit of fear, who is more than a conqueror, a friend of God, full of purpose – a new creation.
And when you start to see that person, then you will know that you are starting to see yourself like God does.
Let’s continue to seek 20/20 vision together,