I had the incredible privilege of going back home to Houston last week to visit my family. While home, I attended the church that I grew up in (www.second.org) where one of my favorite pastors delivered a convicting (and much-needed) sermon entitled, “Who Am I?” Honestly, I don’t think many of us are strangers to this question – we all find ourselves on a sort of epic Homeric quest for greater self-awareness at some point in our lives. When I moved to Nashville 5 years ago to attend Belmont, I was excited about the prospect of really “finding myself” in college. Much to my dismay, I just found more questions. It seemed like finding my identity was like trying to get a handle on an unruly, hyperactive child – the second I thought I had a hold on it, it would slip through my fingers. I was tired and frustrated by the chase.
I think we’re all drawn to those people who truly know who they are. There is something really attractive about transparent and authentic people who are comfortable in their own skin, who look humbly upon their strengths, who find grace in their shortcomings. I’m fortunate to have some of those people in my life and, after quiet observation (and a little envy), I’ve discovered that, unlike me, they spend little time dwelling on who they are. Instead, they meditate more on who God is and they define themselves by who God says they are.
It’s little wonder that I have difficulty with my identity – I’m defining myself by the wrong things.
I am what I do.
I am what I have.
I am how I look.
I am who others say I am.
I am who I say I am.
The problem with defining myself by these things is that they are deceptive, fickle, and ever changing. If my identity rests solely in what I do, then when things don’t work out, I am a failure. If I define myself by who others say I am, then when I fail to meet expectations, I am a disappointment. These definitions lead to slavery and bondage.
I am a slave to performance.
I am a slave to my possessions.
I am a slave to vanity.
I am a slave to acceptance and people-pleasing.
I am a slave to my own erratic feelings.
Fortunately, there is a way to escape the bondage. Freedom comes from knowing that my identity is less about discovering who I am and more about knowing whose I am (please forgive the trite cliché). Brent Curtis and Brett Eldridge put it beautifully in The Sacred Romance:
Who am I, really? The answer to that question is found in the answer to another: What is God’s heart toward me, or, how do I affect Him? If God is the Pursuer, the Ageless Romancer, the Lover, then there has to be a Beloved, one who is the Pursued. This is our role in the story.
I am His beloved and this is all the identity I will ever need. I don’t have to be a slave to performance or opinion and I no longer have to chase after some elusive identity– I must simply rest in the freedom of His unending love, grace, and pursuit of me.