Invitation to Rest

Invitation to Rest

Living Life from the Inside Out

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Who Am I?

Who am I? This is a question that human beings have been seeking answers to from the very beginning.  Actually, in the beginning while in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve knew the answer to that question.  However, when they chose their own way and were banished from the garden, the answer to “who am I” became alarmingly elusive.

The question of identity is one of the most important questions we will ever look to answer. How we answer that question determines the trajectory of our lives.  Psychiatrist Eric Erickson famously included the struggle for identity as one of his 8 stages theory of human development.  This struggle for identity was in the teenage years according to Erickson and if not properly resolved, a person is left with confusion about who they are and their purpose life.

During the first semester of my time with the Renovaré Institute, we have been looking at three core questions;  1) who is God, 2) what is the Gospel and 3) who am I.  I have written several posts on the first two questions so now we will focus on the third question.

Our Pursuit for Identity

Whether we acknowledge it or not, we all really do strive to understand our identity and we make a lot of choices to try to “find ourselves”.  In his book “Discovering Our Spiritual Identity”, Trevor Hudson discusses three primary ways we look to find our identity:

  • Looking Inward: when we look inward, we look within ourselves for answers of identity. We study our temperaments and personalities; we may look at our blind spots that keep us from functioning more effectively. Our goal in this case can be to be kind to ourselves and see the good in who we are. Looking inward is an important process and I highly recommend it, but we miss the mark on our identity if our search stops at looking inward.
  • Looking Outward: When we look outward, we get our sense of identity by what others think of us. It is normal to have a desire to be liked, but when we are defined by how we perceive others view us, our focus can become a desperate attempt to please others. Being liked and pleasing others are not necessarily bad things, in fact they are good things.  However, if we are looking to others, we are on a never-ending, ultimately never fulfilling search for our identity. My identity for much of my life has been to be really good, but how good is good enough?
  • Looking toward Achievement: when you first meet someone, what is the first question you typically ask of each other? Quite often it is “what do you do?” We live in a success-oriented culture where being a straight A student is often not good enough!  When we pursue achievement, we are also building a reputation.  “That person is a rising star!”. “I wish I were like Joe, he really seems to have his life together”.  We can get caught up in comparing ourselves to others and become envious of their achievements and reminded that we need to do more. To be honest, I struggle looking at Facebook because everyone else’s life looks so together! It makes my achievements not look so good. Again, achievement in and of itself is a good thing.  It is good to have goals, to plan, and to achieve. But achievements as a source of identity lead us into the performance trap where we are constantly looking to do the next thing to feel good about ourselves.

Identity Theft

We live in a world today where we are faced with the possibility of having our identities stolen.  We can even buy insurance to protect ourselves in the event someone steals our identity. But even more nefarious than someone hacking our records to find our social security number or credit card information, we have an enemy who has been trying to steal our true identity from the very beginning.  John 10:10a says: “The thief (Satan) comes only to steal and kill and destroy”.  Satan is constantly lying to us about our identity and who we really are.  Henri Nouwen, a famous priest and author in the 20th century summarized three fundamental lies of identity:

  • I am what I have
  • I am what others think of me
  • I am what I have done

Have you ever caught yourself using “I am” statements when thinking about yourself?  Statements like:

  • I am a loser
  • I am a failure
  • I am never enough
  • I am so stupid

If you were to fill in the blank, what are the lies you wrestle with?

  • I am ____________

When we look for identity in ourselves, in others, or in achievement, we leave ourselves open to the attack of the enemy and his lies of who we are.

Finding Our Identity

At this point you may be wondering, what in the world does the picture at the top of this post have to do with identity?  When you saw the picture, you might have thought this was going to be about Christmas!  Well guess what? It is!

The picture on this post is a Nativity set that I put on our fireplace mantel as I was decorating the house for Christmas. This set has special meaning to me because my sister hand painted each of the figurines as a present to me 35 years ago!  When I look at this scene, I am reminded of my true identity. God injected Himself into human history by becoming flesh in the form of a newborn baby. Why would He do that? Why do we celebrate Christmas? There is only one answer.  Love.   Because God so loved us, He sent His Son so that through Him we may be reconciled, born again to live a life in the Kingdom of God as dearly loved children. Adam and Eve were living in the kingdom of God, but chose another kingdom.  Jesus came into the world announcing the Kingdom of God was now here.  In the kingdom, my question of identity is answered   Who am I? I am a beloved, child of God. 

Practice

It is so easy to be overwhelmed at times with the lies of the enemy and the attack on our identity.  It is hard to confront them when they have been a part of our lives for so long, so long in fact that at times they can almost feel like the truth. But the truth is God loves you.  He loves me. We need to remind ourselves regularly of who we really are and to confront and reject the lies.

Christmas can give us a great opportunity to regularly remind ourselves of who we are.  One way to do this is to take notice of all the decorations around your community that celebrate the season.  As you enjoy the beauty of the lights, nativity scenes, and decorative displays, let these be a reminder to you of your identity in Christ. If Jesus had not come, none of this would exist. We would be truly lost, looking for identity in all the wrong ways.  But thanks be to God for His amazing love! As you go through the remainder of the holiday, let your heart, mind, and soul delight in the beauty of the season and be reminded of who you are.  Who are you? You are beloved, children of God. 

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