Identity is a big deal.
Who am I? That is a question we all ask multiple times through out our lives. Whether we consciously ask it or it is asked in our actions as we search it out, it is true for all of us.
Most people when asked who they are will start with their name and then jump to a title or job or some other descriptor of what they do.
“I’m Shane Hart and I am a pastor.”
“I’m Jane Doe and I am a doctor.”
… and so on and so on.
The problem with that approach is those things can change. They can even be taken from us.
I was born with a name. It was registered with the hospital and printed on a birth certificate. With that name there was history and recognition. However, it was not who I am. You see, a few weeks later I was adopted. I was given a new name. A new birth certificate was issued. That new name carried history and recognition and still does. However, it is not my identity. It is how I am known to the world, but it is not who I am. I did not change when my name did. My circumstances changed, how I am known and addressed changed, but I did not change.
Since that time I have been known as many things: son, child, boy, teen, football player, audio tech, cameraman, photographer, cashier, husband, son-in-law, dad, padre, pops, carpenter, waiter, pastor, chaplain. Again, none of those is who I am. Each of those things are descriptors of a life stage or a job or an activity or a title. They have all changed. Some were given. Some were earned. Some just happened. Some were taken. Some changed. Some I let go.
Titles and names and actions may define us to the world, but they are not our identity.
Who we are as a person is a very internal thing and something we must each wrestle through. We will never be settled in life until we settle internally who we are as a person: how we see our identity.
As long as we find our identity in a title or a job or a person or life stage we are setting ourselves up for an identity crisis when that changes. It will change. It always does. People come and go. Jobs change and can be taken from us. Our abilities and capabilities change. While I am still healthy and capable, I cannot do some of the things in my 40s that I could do in my 20s.
All of us have to walk an internal and personal journey to answer the question: who am I?
- Who am I when there are no titles?
- Who am I when I am all alone?
- Who am I without pretense or facade?
- Who am I apart from others?
- Who am I as just me?
That’s it, that last one… who am I as just me?
Once we can answer that question, once we can be secure in our identity as a person, not a title or a job or an ability, then we can find peace and strength to weather the storms and hard times.
So often we read or hear a story of someone who suffers a devastating circumstance and yet they overcome and get through it. Most of the time it is because they have come to terms with who they are as a person. This either happened before or through the devastating event. Without that revelation of identity, they would not get through it. It would destroy them. We see that happen as well.
Too many people die within a short time of retirement because after they lose their identity of job they realize they have lost purpose and are not able to regain it. Those that thrive in retirement are those who find their identity apart from what they do.
So where will you find your sense of identity?
I would suggest you discover it in the permanent not the temporary. Find it internally where it cannot be taken or crushed or forfeited.
I would suggest you find it in the One who created you. Jeremiah 1:5 (NIV)
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;”
Your Creator knows who you are. He knows your purpose and reason for being. The identity that He has for you is amazing. It is not based on performance or accomplishment. It is not rooted in things or titles. It is not found in the temporary. It is permanent. It is wonderful. It gives strength through hard times and peace through storms. It is solid and secure. It transcends the temporary.
Your identity is not in what your title is, not in what you can or cannot do. It is not even in your name. Your identity is in your Creator. Your identity is set apart; wonderfully made, filled with purpose and life.