Identity seems to be what everyone is searching for. It struck me that growing up, I always thought I was destined for some fabulousness. Fame must await me. I would be the most famous dog handler/pilot/florist or fashion-designer the minute I set my hand to the task. Random celebrities would spot me nonchalantly walking through a crowd in airport and say: Her! She'd be perfect for my next movie! Or my next date! I would be plucked from obscurity and instantly recognized as pure genius.
Whatever my future identity, it would no doubt be great.
What a rude shock it has been to grow old and realize that each of us actually has to work, that talent doesn't just fall from the sky into your lap and bring you instant fame and fortune, that if my identity is in what I do or how I look then I am right royally stuffed.
I suppose if I'm brutally honest, I still think like that. I still expect to have the words of my first (and widely acclaimed brilliant) novel pour unhindered out of my fingertips. I still (half) expect for my every thought posted on my blog to go viral at any minute making me the next greatest phenomenon or for every thing I create to fly out of my online shop and sell like hotcakes.
In fact, not a lot I do has worked right. There have been a lot of spectacular flops. I think it may be because God in his kindness would rather I get a few things straight before I go embarrassing myself in front of a lot of people.
Those would be things like:
- working at things is healthy
- persistence is vital
- my primary identity is that I am someone who is loved by God, everything else is secondary.
- discipline and not doing things out of emotions is good for you
- real success is not fame or fortune
It's humbling knowing God. You begin to realize that instead of being The Main Character, you are that tiny bit part actor in the background of the movie. It dawns on you that he really is more interested in your character and his (well-deserved) glory than in your glory and his character. Could it really be that as the creator of everything he positions you to accomplish his will and not yours on the earth?
On the other hand, it's comforting to know that when your identity is simply as the one Jesus loved, it doesn't matter what else gets stripped away or what happens to you, you know everything is going to be ok. You could, like Job, lose absolutely everything and still have your identity in tact.
I've often thought the apostle John was a bit uppity in calling himself the one Jesus loved, I mean really, didn't everyone think they were the hot favourite? Perhaps though he one of the only ones who understood the key to identity: that the only thing that really matters in this whole question of who you are is that you are loved by The King. Paul got it too. He called all of his religious kudos rubbish in comparison to gaining Jesus.
What happens when you lose everything? When you fail at all the things you thought mattered most? When things don't go according to the plan you hoped would be your life?
This morning I flicked back through my notes from a conference last year. The speaker shared that we need to have the affirmation of others stripped away from us until we get to the affirmation of God that goes deep into the spirit.
Affirmation. Identity. Who affirms to you who you are? Who positions you? Where do you take your identity from? I've been thinking of the Psalms where it talks about God who rescues and exalts the humble but brings low the proud. Often God has positioned me in places I would rather not have been in, he has given me jobs to do that have made me think I had an identity which I would rather not have had.
It's tempting to think that God's plans for our lives aren't as glorious as the ones we have for ourselves but the truth of the matter is
1 Cor 2:9 No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.
Losing my identity, becoming simply someone God loves who happens to do all of the other things that used to give me my identity, it's not so crazy, it's liberating.
Where is your identity located?